Tag Archives: museums

Passports, power and privilege

On the side of one column in London’s Migration Museum is a list of countries, ordered by their ‘Global Passport Power Rank’. At just 4 foot 3 (and a half!), I can barely see Germany at the top, or the UK in 12th.[1] But here I stand, confronted by my privilege. It is all the […]

Doubtful Nationalities: A Josef Koudelka Retrospective

So, what nationality are you?” In my Omaha grade school in the mid-1970s, we’d ask each other this question with deep concern. I had friends who claimed Irish with pride (especially around St Patrick’s Day, or when the Boston Celtics were in the playoffs—thanks to a guy named Havlicek, but never mind). German was a […]

Fitting In: Bendigo’s Golden Dragon Museum

Sometimes the travel gods are against you. Worse, sometimes you hit a bad streak, where your whole decision-making process is off, and one bad decision leads to another. I felt that way on a visit last summer to Bendigo, in the heart of Australia’s nineteenth-century goldmining region. On my first evening I had dinner with […]

You Decide: The Immigration Museum, Melbourne

Are museums our new spiritual centres? Like the cathedrals of past centuries, museums have become our architectural wonders. Tourists travel to the Louvre to venerate I.M. Pei’s pyramid as much as Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, and Bilbao has become a new pilgrimage site since Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum opened in 1997. Museums resemble places of worship […]

The Artist as Global Citizen: Cai Guo-Qiang in Brisbane

In the mid 1990s I taught English in Xiamen, a coastal city in southern China. Xiamen (also known as Amoy) has a lovely subtropical climate, and today it’s a favourite holiday spot among the Chinese. But from 1842 to the Second World War, it was a treaty port. After the First Opium War, the British […]

Immigrant Woods

My mate Pete and I had just left our Saturday morning coffee gathering when we noticed a tremble of dark feathers in the street. A female blackbird (which in fact is brown) was not doing well. Unable to fly, she had struggled through the grass and stumbled down the curb into the road. I picked […]

Engaging in Immigrant History: Exploring the Tenement Museum

A long way from the grand buildings of the “museum mile” that runs along the east side of Central Park in Manhattan, in an old apartment building in the Lower East Side, is one of my favorite museums anywhere in the world.   The Tenement Museum tells the story of the immigrant families that lived […]

A Migrant’s California Mission

Growing up Catholic, I always struggled with the idea of proselytism. Our neighbours were Jewish and Protestant, but I never worried about their souls (my parents didn’t either, thank God). Twenty years later, teaching in China, I was happy to quietly “bear witness,” to attend religious services and support the small, local community of Chinese […]

A Polish Exile in London

What does the name Kosciuszko mean to you? Australians know it as their tallest mountain; New Yorkers know it as the bridge connecting Brooklyn and Queens; daytime television fans know it as the Mississippi town that gave us Oprah Winfrey. Residents of Washington DC, Chicago and Boston may have seen the name on an old […]

These are migrant streets: visiting the Museum of Immigration and Diversity in London

A line of huddled figures is slowly moving along the damp brick wall of a side street in East London. They are shivering in the cold March drizzle staring at those further ahead who pass through a worn-out laminated information sheet. One by one, they are finally let in through a door of peeling and […]