The Lower East Side Tenement Museum is unveiling a new program, emphasizing discussion of immigration issues. "Getting By: Past & Present," will lead visitors through restored and un-restored tenements, facilitating conversations about a wide variety of topics. The talks will focus on things like finding a job, negotiating public assistance, working in unsafe conditions, confronting racial discrimination, and struggling for acceptable housing. A museum news release notes that, "immigrants today face challenges similar to those faced by newcomers in the past."
Tour guides will use radio broadcasts, maps, newspapers, photos, and oral histories, to trigger the conversations. The program is a revised version of "Kitchen Conversations," a post tour option since 2004. For the first time, the museum is integrating the discussion with the tour itself, to create a more dynamic exchange of ideas.
The program is being offered every day at 2pm. You can see the full news release from the Tenement Museum after the jump.
Announcing a new Program – Getting By: Past and Present
“Kitchen Conversations” Dialogue Program is revised & revamped
to be more dynamic and explore issues from multiple perspectives
October 29, 2009, New York, NY—Immigrants today face challenges similar to those faced by newcomers in the past: finding a job, negotiating public assistance, working in unsafe conditions, confronting racial discrimination, and struggling for acceptable housing. On the Lower East Side Tenement Museum’s new program, Getting By: Past and Present, visitors are encouraged to explore these issues from multiple perspectives.
Expanding on the Museum’s Getting By: Immigrants Weathering Hard Times tour, educators lead visitors through restored and un-restored spaces within 97 Orchard Street, discussing housing reform and the role of government assistance during economic depressions. In apartments restored to specific time periods, educators introduce primary sources, such as radio broadcasts, maps, newspapers, photos, and oral histories, to trigger conversation. Visitors are encouraged to share their own thoughts, ideas, and memories surrounding the broader issues of government, class, and “Americanization.” In each space, as well as following the program, visitors engage in a facilitated dialogue, in which they are invited to draw new connections between past and present.
Getting By: Past and Present is a rethinking of Kitchen Conversations, launched in 2004. The Museum developed the public dialogue program as part of its mission to foster an open exchange of ideas among visitors. While Kitchen Conversations was an optional post-tour roundtable discussion, the retooled concept offers in-depth conversation all
along the tour. Open-ended questions and opportunities for discussion are more integrated with the tour content. A more flexible program, Past and Present will allow visitors to spend extra time in the Museum’s restored apartments and use their surroundings as a starting point for conversation.
Dialogue programs in museums have become more prevalent in recent years, thanks in part to the work of forward- thinking museums like the Tenement Museum. As Kathleen Hulser, public historian at the New-York Historical Society, said in a March 17, 2009 New York Times article, “People don’t always get along and feel refreshed by having a conversation about things they disagree about.” The museum provides a safe place in which visitors can discuss sometimes controversial issues. Past and Present continues the Tenement Museum’s groundbreaking work in redefining the role museums can play in their communities.
This two-hour program is offered daily at 2:00 PM. In 2010 the Museum plans to launch similar dialogue programs for its other building tours.