ABSTRACT

In North America, Australia and Europe, museums that document migrant histories, create new identities and imagine shared futures have emerged in response to a heightened awareness of migrant insecurity. Migrant museums acknowledge a duty to remember the past, to respect human rights and to contribute to public dialogue about how difference is recognized and integration is supported. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), realizing that these museums offer an opportunity to promote public understanding of migrant experience, lower barriers to inclusion and build bridges across cultural and political differences, have sponsored an International Network of Migration Institutions. This partnership encourages the development of new museums to collect and safeguard objects and narratives relating to the history and culture of immigration and to the process of integration of migrant communities. Their ambition is to fashion the museum as a space for encounters between migrants and their host populations, in the hope that such encounters will foster empathy and reciprocity and reshape identities. The initiative also provides a forum for museum professionals to share expertise and more especially to understand their roles in promoting integration. So in addition to realizing new kinds of citizenship, these interventions also aim to develop a new kind of expert, a museum professional who interacts with policy makers and researchers as well as the broader public to build inclusive societies. The Migration Institutions Initiative sets an agenda for museums: to deconstruct stereotypes, to enable migrant and host communities to find common ground, to foster a sense of belonging and to develop empathy. This sets aside some pressing questions about the terms of migrant integration. How is difference understood and welcomed into the larger polity? How are the rights of individuals within groups secured? What frameworks for understanding and managing diverse populations can these institutions draw upon? In Europe and elsewhere, liberal democracies are increasingly ambivalent about multiculturalism:

retreating from it in certain policy respects and suspicious of the word, but, at the same time, institutionally and attitudinally reshaped by its commitments

and norms; reaching for a new idiom and a renewed emphasis on commonality, yet reluctant to quash diversity and reinscribe brute assimilationism.