There are many reasons why people might leave their homes for life in a new country. They might be pushed out by economic strains, a rigid social class system, mandatory military service, environmental disasters, war, or religious persecution. But while they are pushed, they are also pulled to a new place by opportunities for a better life, freedom, education, adventure, and family members already living in the area.
An immigrant is a person who comes into a country to make it a permanent home. Some immigrants are also refugees. A refugee has been forced to flee his or her country. Iowa has become home to thousands of immigrants since the state first opened to settlers.
This display explores immigration through the objects, skills, and traditions that were and are brought. Some objects were needed for the journey, some for the new home, and some things were just too special to leave behind. Skills in farming, carpentry, sewing, and cooking have provided many immigrants a means to support and provide for families. While some skills could be used immediately and in the same way people had practiced in their home countries, other skills would be adapted for life in Iowa. In hearts came language, religion, folklore, music, and customs.
Meet some of the newcomers to Iowa and learn about their lives through the things they brought with them in trunks, hands, and hearts. Thirteen museums and organizations shared stories, artifacts, and historic photos for this traveling banner display.
The exhibition was created by Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and is sponsored by Humanities Iowa, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Edwin R. and Joan T. Hemphill.
For information about scheduling the exhibit, contact Vesterheim Exhibitions Manager Zach Row-Heyveld at email@example.com or 563-382-9681 ext. 221.
Photo: Detail of story cloth by Shoua Her, ca. 1999. She came to Oskaloosa in 1976 with 20 other Hmong families. State Historical Society of Iowa, 2000.051