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Objects of Migration

Objects of Inspiration 

Photograph by Richard Barnes (New York Times)

Students from the Beloit College course “Migrants, Immigrants, and Refugees” have been learning about various aspects of migration: reasons why people leave the lands of their birth, of the arduous process and journeys to new places, and of migrants’ efforts to maintain a sense of dignity and safety in their new homelands. 

We were particularly moved by the ethnography, Land of Open Graves by anthropologist Jason de León. In his study of migration along the US-Mexico border, we learned about the material traces left behind by migrants in the Sonoran Desert: backpacks, water bottles, clothing, toys and other material possessions that collectively tell a story about what they choose to take with them (but ultimately, abandon) through their journey. 

Ethnographic museums can be spaces for both political and personal contemplation. While museums may introduce us to new cultural objects that we can learn from, they can also act as catalysts for reflecting upon our own personal and political journeys.

This exhibit connects the past and present - forging connections between objects at the Logan Museum of Anthropology and students’ stories of migration, diaspora and maintaining cultural ties. Below are six objects from Mexico, Guatemala, Syria, Myanmar (Burma), and the Philippines-- the most popular countries from which most immigrants to the United States originate. Students were asked to learn about and describe these museum objects, but also use these objects as a source of personal reflection.

We invite you to click on the links below to learn more about the objects from these countries, and to also look at students’ personal objects within. Each of these personal “objects of inspiration” demonstrate how interconnected our lives and stories can be. We invite you to learn more about these objects, to see how they inspired students, and to think about the interconnected nature of migration through stories and personal objects.

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