Where Is Europe’s Ellis Island?

The interview project was part of a larger endeavour bringing museum experts, scholars, immigrant NGOs and artist together to reflect about the role of museums in societies shaped by immigration and – as a consequence – by cultural diversity. Museums as well as other cultural institutions are challenged by the changes immigration brings about. These challenges have several aspects and dimensions.

First, the targeted audiences change. Museums need to reach out to new visitors, often from different ethnic, cultural, social and educational backgrounds. Second, the historical and artistic topics and perspectives in exhibitions are potentially broadened. Immigration brings about new historical experiences and artistic views that can change inherited views. Third, diversity of staff members and protagonists curating exhibitions is at stake. Immigrant groups also ask for increasing visibility and voice in the area of cultural production and representation. Fourth, questions of social and cultural cohesion in immigrant societies are also negotiated in the realm of museums. Fifth, the question of how to collect and preserve objects related to migration and display migration history in new and separate or old and established cultural institution arises. The issue entails the question about establishing migration museums or mainstreaming the topic in existing museums.

Within the interviews the latter aspect was covered, namely the question about migration museums in Europe or Europe’s nation state’s respectively. The interviewed artists reflected upon the question where Europe’s Ellis Island might be? Which symbolic and real places are associated with Europe’s migration history? Could these places be transferred into places of commemoration?