Libraries’ immigration exhibit wins national award

From the American Association for State and Local History

Ellen Engseth and Daniel Necas, in the People on the Move exhibit.
Ellen Engseth and Daniel Necas, exhibit co-curators.

University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections recently was honored for its exhibit, People on the Move, with the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

The exhibit explored ideas of immigration and race and ethnicity, while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Libraries’ Immigration History Research Center Archives and its partner Immigration History Research Center, through sharing its own story of creating and developing the archive to support a wide variety of research.

“People on the Move was a compact, engaging, and informative exhibit,” an AASLH reviewer commented, adding: “What struck me immediately was how perfectly the exhibit matched the character of the Archives itself — warm and inviting, rich in resources, socially committed.”

Another AASLH reviewer said: “The Immigration History Research Center Archives is an asset to the state of Minnesota, larger community and continues to inspire people like me to think what archiving [and] public exhibit can do for communities of various backgrounds and create a positive dialogue among them.”

Sharing the ‘working life of an archives’

“In this exhibit, we shared the working life of an archives and research center, and also invited visitors to connect their personal stories or local history to a global experience of im/migration,” said Ellen Engseth, co-curator of the exhibit and Head of Migration and Social Services Collections at University Libraries. “I feel our visitors connected to both themes, sometimes in very personal ways.”

Daniel Necas, of the Libraries IHRCA, was also exhibit co-curator and the exhibit designer was the Libraries’ Darren Terprstra.

Exhibit included map built by visitors

Engseth noted that innovative elements included “a map that our visitors built,” where people self-selected a (imaginary or real) migration path, and displayed this with a simple string. The result was a large world map that through the life of the exhibit became a strong visual display of the idea of migration within visitors’ minds.

“Each string on its own was quite fascinating to follow, sometimes ‘stopping’ at many locations and traversing the globe in a variety of directions, relating real movement of real people,” Engseth said.

“We are very pleased to be among this years’ group of awardees, and to potentially have played an inspirational role for our visitors,” said Ellen Engseth, co-curator of the exhibit and Head of Migration and Social Services Collections at University Libraries.

Video of People on the Move

About the Immigration History Research Center Archives

The Immigration History Research Center Archives is a renowned archives and library for the study of immigration, ethnicity, and race. We select sources documenting a broad range of immigrant and refugee experiences, and strive to connect history to today’s experiences. We work closely with our colleagues in the Immigration History Research Center, and are part of the Migration and Social Services Collections in Archives & Special Collections at the University of Minnesota Libraries.

Our collections’ strengths are first and second generation immigrants and displaced persons who came to the United States from central, eastern, and southern Europe; the eastern Mediterranean (formerly called the “Near East” region of the Middle East and North Africa); and late-20th and early 21st century immigrants and refugees. Our collections vary from print to manuscript to born-digital. They include personal papers as well as organizational records of ethnic and immigrant-formed groups, and of social service providers.

About the AASLH Award of Merit

The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 71st year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history. This year, AASLH conferred 63 national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history. The program was created in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and local history throughout the United States.

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