The current trend in the development of migration museums, named differently worldwide, is an interesting phenomenon, as it may contribute to the creation of a new and multiple identity, at an individual and collective level. Like the United States with Ellis Island, Australia, Canada, and more recently several European countries – e.g. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – have been creating such venues to facilitate transmission between generations as well as encounters between migrants and the host populations, by telling their personal story.
While these initiatives also serve the duty to remember, they seem to have three main objectives: Acknowledge, integrate and build awareness.
– Acknowledge: The contributions made by migrants to their host societies; the diversity and wealth of the origin cultures and; the right to a dual-belonging.
– Include and Integrate: Foster the sense of belonging; enable the communities to feel an integral part of the nation; find common ground and contribute to a national identity.
– Build awareness and educate on the events that induced individuals – and refugees in particular – to leave their land, thus developing empathy among the host population. More generally, deconstruct stereotypes on immigration.
Given the international scene and the latest events, from the Van Gogh affair in the Netherlands in 2004 to the so-called ‘crise des banlieues’ in France in 2005, there is an urgent need to give the migrant generations (the youth as well as their parents) a voice, in order to foster inclusion, integration and the right to difference. Listening to individual stories may help to deconstruct stereotypes. Memory, History and Narration may also allow to take a step back and to consider the complete picture.
Migration museums also face common challenges, in that they intend to be not only a venue for conservation and exhibition, but also and above all a lively meeting place. The challenge is not so much to bring in the intellectuals, academics, researchers, historians, traditional visitors of museums (the converted) but also and above all to attract the general public, those with preconceived ideas on immigration and the migrants themselves. UNESCO and the IOM have decided to work together to promote exchange of information and experiences on the history of immigration and the memories of migrants, notably through helping to set up and develop museums in receiving countries. This kind of museum would, in particular, help collect, safeguard, highlight and make accessible to the general public certain elements relating to the history and culture of immigration, and to the process of integration of migrant communities.
Given all that, the support offered by Internet technologies may play a key role for the success of the migration museums network. This website will offer the interactive and editorial tools useful to create a web community of the migration museums. At a first step, the website will be addressed mainly at professionals and experts. At a second step, it has to be hoped that the website will reach a broader targets including migrants and the general public.
The International Network of Migration Institutions: www.migrationmuseums.org .