Admission is always free Directions

Open today: 10:00 to 5:00

Immigration and Displacement: Unearthing Stories | Activity

Binh Danh, Ghost of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #1, 2008

Binh Danh, Ghost of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #1, 2008, daguerreotype, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund, 2012.43.1

Select a work of art from this module, such as Arshile Gorky’s The Artist and His Mother Binh Danh’s Ghost of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum #1, or John Singleton Copley’s The Copley Family. Using an adaptation of The Story Routine created by Ron Ritchhart of Harvard University’s Project Zero, identify the following:

                  What’s the main or central story of this work of art? 

                  What’s the side story (or stories) of this work of art? You might consider what’s happening on the periphery and in the background, or how the artwork was made.

                  What’s the hidden story of this work of art? What’s obscured, neglected, or happening below the surface that isn’t easily seen?

Try discussing the work of art as a group to determine the main and side stories. Student wonderings can serve as guideposts for uncovering hidden stories through additional research. Where do journeying and migration fit into the stories you discover?

Immigration and Displacement: Charting Journeys | Activity

Invite small groups of students to select a work of art that features a transformational journey they’d like to investigate. The journey might be visible in the artwork, or it may be one that the artist undertook. Suggested works of art include Romare Bearden’s Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, Dorothea Lange’s Migrant agricultural worker’s family, Nipomo, California, Arshile Gorky’s The Artist and His Mother, Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s Cows in Pasture, and Kara Walker’s no world. Next, ask students to figure out or imagine the specifics of this journey:

  • Identify the person undertaking the travels. If the journey depicted is a generalized one, ask students to identify an actual or historical person who would have experienced a similar migration.
  • Where might the journey have begun? Did it conclude?
  • Did anyone accompany them? Who did they encounter along the way?
  • Why did they make this journey? Was it their choice to travel? What costs were associated with the journey?
  • Describe the travel conditions. What form(s) of transportation did they use? How long did it take to get from one place to another? During what season did they travel?
  • How does the way in which the artist depicted the journey reflect or add to the story of that journey? Think about colors, materials, and shapes.
  • What challenges did they experience along the way? Were there any surprises or moments of delight? What emotions do you imagine they felt while traveling?
  • How might you travel this route today?
  • What is realistic or unrealistic about what is pictured? Why?

Students will likely need to learn about historical events or artist biographies to answer some of these questions. In cases where finding an answer proves difficult, ask students to put themselves in the shoes of the person traveling and use their imaginations. Encourage students to share the results of their research and thinking in creative ways, such as annotating a map, or creating a video or performance.

Immigration and Displacement: The American Dream | Activity

Many immigrants come to the United States or move within the country seeking new opportunities and a better life—if not for themselves, then for their children. They may be driven in part by the “American Dream,” a concept or ethos which promises upward social mobility, increased wealth, and equality, as suggested in the US Declaration of Independence

What does the American Dream mean to you? Is the American Dream something you believe in or aspire to achieve personally? Do you think it’s equally available to everyone in the country, as well as prospective immigrants?

Consider the works of art in this module and select an object or figure in a work that you think best illustrates the idea of the American Dream. Can you identify an object or figure that challenges or complicates the concept?