The Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at The University of New Mexico is taking an anthropological perspective on the current political climate.
Now through March 3, the museum’s open-to-the-public exhibit, “No Hate, No Fear,” will focus on immigrants and refugees in the United States.
Devorah Romanek, the curator of exhibits at the Maxwell Museum, said that this particular exhibit is part of a series that addresses contemporary anthropological issues that are in the news.
Romanek uses a model designed to create exhibits that respond quickly to the anthropological issues in the news. She calls this model “rapid response exhibitions,” because the exhibits are often time sensitive and keep up curatorial activism, she said.
This exhibit approaches immigrant and refugee politics in a unique way by using music in attempt to humanize the experiences of refugees and immigrants, she said.
“We decided to use music and musical instruments because of how very human and shared that is. Not everyone practices religion, but almost everyone has some sort of music in their lives,” Romanek said.
The exhibit features a protest sign from airport protests across the nation in response to the political climate surrounding immigrants and refugees, Romaneck said. This particular sign reads, “I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” which is part of a poem by Emma Lazarus found at the Statue of Liberty’s museum.
“The protests were a response to the executive ban of immigrants and refugees from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The protests reflect both a long history of Americans resisting government decisions they find objectionable — starting with the Boston Tea Party of 1773 — and the power of social media to unite groups with a common purpose,” according to a Maxwell Museum of Anthropology press release.
The exhibit also includes a stringed musical instrument called the oud. This instrument was chosen to be displayed because the Maxwell Museum archives have videos of refugees playing this instrument, according to Romanak.
“In a sense you could say we are taking a particular position, which museums always do, just trying to be transparent about that. But the whole point of the exhibit is to invite conversation about these issues that are present today and to consider them in a historical and anthropological context,” she said.
The ultimate goal of the exhibit is to start getting people thinking about the implications of the ban and what message this portrays to the rest of the world about the United States, Romanak said.
The exhibit is meant to spark conversation while humanizing the stories of immigrants and refugees throughout the continuous process of legislation and debate, she said.
Megan Holmen is a freelance reporter for news and culture at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.