At a time when immigration is at the center of our national conversation, the Tenement Museum forges emotional connections between visitors and immigrants, enhancing appreciation for the vital role immigrants play in shaping the American identity. In this episode of Press Play we talked with Jas Chana, the museum’s Associate Director of Media and Communications. The Tenement Museum is located in the Lower East Side, and you can watch their videos on nyxt.nyc/tenement.
Museum’s are trusted sources of information in the eyes of the public. Immigration is also one of the most divisive and misunderstood issues of the day. A museum that embraces and values the role of immigration has the power to affect real change in public opinion. - Jas Chana
NYXT: Tell us about your time working with the Tenement Museum.
Jas Chana: I have worked at the Tenement Museum for two years, helping to promote the Museum’s programs and public profile through earned and social media.
NYXT: What have been the main changes throughout the history of the Museum?
JC: The Museum has grown a lot in our 30 years of operation, adding many new tours and experiences. One of the biggest changes was the addition of a second tenement building at 103 Orchard St. This has allowed us to host more visitors, tell stories of a different range of people, and open our current visitor center and Museum shop!
NYXT: Tell us about the Museum’s contribution to social justice and education.
JC: The Museum is a leading voice on immigration history in the United States. It uses its resources and programs to educate the public about the role that immigrants, migrants, and refugees played and continue to continue to play in the ongoing creation of our nation.
NYXT: Why is it important to have a museum that embraces and values the role of immigration?
JC: Museums are trusted sources of information in the eyes of the public. Immigration is also one of the most divisive and misunderstood issues of the day. A museum that embraces and values the role of immigration has the power to affect real change in public opinion. The Tenement Museum’s immigration storytelling creates empathy in its visitors for the experiences of immigrants, past and present, and in turn, works to shift the narrative around immigrants from one of fear to respect and admiration.
NYXT: Who are the main recognized professionals that have contributed to the museum?
JC: Our founders Ruth Abram & Anita Jacobson have contributed the most to the Museum. A social worker & historian, Abram & Jacobson had the vision to create a Museum that told the stories of people not usually upheld in museums, those of ordinary people who nonetheless have contributed immeasurably to the United States.
NYXT: Which items from the Tenement Museum collection would you highlight and why?
JC: My favorite is a Durkee’s curry can from the 19th century, which reveals how immigrants were beginning to consume mass-produced foods and how curry was a food craze at the time. You can see the can and read more about it here:
NYXT: What are the main goals, events, and shows that the Tenement Museum has planned for 2020?
JC: We are gearing up to launch a new walking tour that will focus on the experiences of African-Americans in the Lower East Side. We are also working to acknowledge the contributions of Native people through programming and events.
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