Today was my last day with the Arab American National Museum (AANM), and I’m incredibly grateful for the knowledge and passion the wonderful staff has shared with me over the past two months! A special shout-out to Curator of Collections Elizabeth Skene, who has been a great mentor, friend, and advocate for my museum ambitions :)
I’ve been working with the Curatorial Department on content development for an upcoming exhibit: Patriots and Peacemakers, which will highlight personal narratives of Arab American men and women who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, diplomatic & foreign services, and the Peace Corps. With the exhibit, we have been conscious of including a comprehensive array of servicemen and women, and the exhibit promises to be a strong and deliberate reflection on the contributions that so many troops, volunteers, and diplomats have made in the defense of our Constitution and democracy. I urge you to visit & check it out this fall!
I have learned so much from both my research for the exhibit, and from the wonderfully diverse staff that the museum is so blessed to have. Most of the research I was responsible for pertained specifically to the U.S. military, and it was fascinating to learn more about genealogy, track down family and personal histories, and document the lives of so many individuals who have made remarkably heroic sacrifices in the name of freedom! The biographies, on 210 different individuals, had to be kept at 70 words. This was challenging at times. For some, it was hard to find enough information to reach that cap, for others it was difficult to narrow incredibly impressive careers and accomplishments to such a short snippet. Ethically, I didn’t always know if the information I was pulling, or the pieces of their narratives I chose, were the ones that best represented their lives. I did think long and hard about all of the research I translated into exhibit content, though, and I hope I did them proud.
If you can’t make the exhibit, there are still beautiful permanent collections at the museum available for viewing on Wednesdays through Sundays every week! Or follow the museum’s news and updates on twitter! Another great museum project is an independent website curated by AANM called Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes. It’s remarkably thoughtful and well designed, and goes beyond exploring misconceptions about Arabs alone: it also looks at the misunderstood notions about other groups including African Americans, Native Americans, and Jews. It has even gotten some great national press attention by NPR, the National, ABC, and more :)
There’s been a lot of negative light in the area because of recent taunts and anti-Arab remarks by the now national figure Terry Jones (who is a total meany & a loony-bin! – and that’s all I’ll say) so it’s as important as ever to come together as a community and both learn & appreciate the unique pastimes, traditions, and lifestyles of everyone in America. It never hurts to learn about people who come from somewhere different!
Anywho, today Steve (Curatorial Department Manager), Curatorial Assistants Kyle & Sarah, and myself took a lunch-time journey throughout Dearborn for some last-opportunity Arab eats before I begin a diet of South American cuisine in Bolivia. New Yasmeen and Shatila did the trick! (I’m still in a food coma, some 10 hours later! yummmmm).
I’ll miss you Dearborn & AANM!