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Posted at 6:15 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Coalition supports a new museum for "American People"

By Jacqueline Trescott

Every American has a story of their own beginnings, or their families or their ethnic groups. And sometimes the collective power of those stories are lost in major museums, or the celebrations of the Fourth of July, or the debates over immigration.

Sam Eskenazi, a retired federal employe who worked at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum before and after its opening, has an idea that 131 ethnic and nationality organizations have endorsed.

Eskenazi announced Wednesday that his broad coalition is asking Congress to authorize a commission to study the feasibility for a National Museum of the American People.

"When did they arrive?" is just one question the museum would pose. "This is the full story of coming to America, from 20,000 years ago to today," said Eskenazi, speaking at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

A large representation of the 131 supporters crowded the room, many taking the microphone to tell a little bit of their own story. "We all have different backgrounds but we are all patriotic Americans," said Rita Balian, the president of the Armenian-American Cultural Association. "It was in 1654 that the first Armenians came to this country."

Ming Hong Chow, representing the Taiwanese Association of America, said, "we have many stories. We recognize the uniqueness of each and respect the difference."

Washington is a suitable home for the museum, the organizers said. The Smithsonian Institution, an international destination for 30 million visitors a year, has museums that feature Asian and African Art, Native American artifacts and chronicles, and a sprawling American history museum. It is well on the way in establishing a National Museum of African American History and Culture. A Latino museum is being studied.

Eskenazi said the "melting pot" idea was different. "This is a totally different institution. This will compliment the others. They have specific artifacts. This will be a story driven museum," he said.

He outlined a plan to have a commission study whether the proposal was worthy, what the governance would be---Smithsonian or independent---its location and funding. He projected an opening in 2018 or 2019. "We are going to raise funds privately," he said, "and I don't see this as having an admission fee."

By Jacqueline Trescott  | February 9, 2011; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Museums  | Tags:  National Museum of the American People, Sam Eskenazi, Washington museum proposal  
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Comments

A new study finds that Americans have huge misconceptions about immigration. For example, the average American believes that 39 percent of the U.S. population was born abroad. The real figure, however, is less than 14 percent. When asked about illegal immigration, 58 percent of Americans believe that most immigrants do NOT have legal residency, when in actuality illegal immigrants comprise less than one-third of the migrant population in the U.S. Ethic Soup has a good post on this survey:

http://www.ethicsoup.com/2011/02/immigration-study-ill-informed-americans-fuel-contentious-divisions.html

There is also a great page with photos of wonderful immigrant statues and memorials which is hard to find anywhere else:

http://www.ethicsoup.com/immigration-sculptures.html

Posted by: s_mceachern | February 9, 2011 9:50 PM | Report abuse

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