Friday, May 4, 2012

(USA) National Archives New Exhibit on Immigration

Posted by: Jan Meisels Allen

The  (USA) National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will open a new exhibit on June 15 on immigration entitled, "Attachments: Faces and Stories from America's Gates". It will run through September 4, 2012.  The information is not yet posted on their website (they only have information through May as of this posting) http://www.archives.gov/calendar/.

"Attachments" tells the stories of 31 men, women, and children who found themselves at the gateways to America between 1880 and the end of World War II.  Their stories are told through original documents and photographs that were "attached" to government forms, and draw from a few of the millions of  immigration case files at the National Archives.

The exhibit is divided into three sections;  Entering, Leaving and Staying. Examples of the 31 people one would "meet" in the exhibit include:

 1.  A young Polish child - whose parents are murdered by the Nazis - hides for two years in the Polish forests with an uncle and cousin.  The boy survives the war but then spends six years in four refugee camps.  Finally, in 1951, he is able to leave Germany and comes with his cousin to the U.S. He ends up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he is placed in a foster family, and becomes a U.S. citizen..

2.  A woman from Michigan, married to a Chinese man, who learns upon trying to leave the country that under U.S. law at the time, when she married her husband, she lost her U.S. citizenship and "became Chinese" for immigration purposes.

3. A Hawaiian boy taken by his parents to Japan who returns years later wanting to work in California.  However, U.S. immigration officers doubt his story and detain him at Angel Island, despite his Hawaiian birth certificate.

4. A Chinese woman who sails for the U.S. in 1927 with her new husband. The couple devises strategies that allow them to successfully negotiate prejudices about Chinese women trying to enter the country for immoral purposes. Seventy years later, their granddaughter discovers their wedding photograph in her grandmother's immigration file.

If you are planning a trip to the Washington D.C. area this summer--this is an exhibit that is worth a trip to the National Archives.

Jan Meisels Allen
IAJGS Vice President
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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