Including Immigrants: How Art Museums Can Bring Together Old and New Americans

By Lyra Monteiro.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores the challenges of creating inclusive educational programs within art museums, which have traditionally played a role in dividing rather than uniting society. As an example of how such a program could work, this paper presents a proposal developed by the author for the Harvard Art Museum, to bring together Latino immigrants preparing for the Citizenship exam and Harvard University Law students, who are learning legal Spanish to assist in their future legal practice. Through a series of workshops built around art in the Harvard Art Museum’s collection, these two groups will learn more about each other’s languages, cultures, and life experiences. The artworks will serve as a touchstone to share personal stories and discuss national cultures and histories. Students will learn to present their own personal stories inspired by the art in the museum, both in their own language, and in the language they are learning (English for the immigrants, Spanish for the law students). Aside from the interpersonal connections, which will go some way towards building bridges between immigrants and the young elite of the United States, this program will develop mutual understanding, mutual respect, and language skills that are highly beneficial for both groups.

Keywords: Immigrant, Art, Language, Culture, History, New Americans

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.139-146. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.425MB).

Lyra Monteiro

Graduate Student, Public Humanities, Joukowsky Institute for Archeology and the Ancient World, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA

Lyra Monteiro is co-founder of The Museum On Site (, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people understand their worlds through site-specific, free public events that convey relevant ideas and information in accessible and stimulating ways. She is currently a PhD candidate in the interdisciplinary Archaeology program at Brown University, and is also working on an Masters degree in Public Humanities. In addition to the New Americans program currently under development for the Harvard Art Museum, her recent museum work includes audience studies for the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, and research for a walking tour of the National Mall in Washington DC, for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.


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