Student Travel to New York City Includes a Look at a Diverse

Located near Chinatown in Lower Manhattan at 103 Orchard Street, the Tenement Museum is one of the most important museums chronicling the extensive history of American immigration in the past two centuries. There are restored apartments with detailed histories of the people who left their homes and families to live and work in this new and hopeful and often unpleasant new country. There are also many walking tours and themed exhibitions, making this the most in-depth museum of its kind.

A Time Capsule in Lower Manhattan?
While many Americans reluctantly recognize a new wave of anti-immigrant fervor, it is the perfect time to educate students about the historical trials of the millions who made their way to the United States for a better life. One of the best places for a closer examination of this history is New York’s Tenement Museum, founded by historian and social activist Ruth Abram. It was almost an accident that Abram and her cofounder Anita Jacobsen found their perfect location for the museum when inspecting the storefront property on Orchard Street. Cracking a door to a backroom was all it took for them to discover that the entire building was former tenement housing sealed from the public for more than half a century, the perfect time capsule.

Since then the site has become a national trust for historic preservation. Extensive and meticulous research has revealed details about the many mid-19th Century immigrant lives at the Orchard Street address. Over the past twenty years museum staff have restored half a dozen apartments, most recently the home of Irish immigrants, The Moores, who lived in the building in 1869. Students and teachers alike will learn while enjoying the restored tenement building for a complete time travel experience.

Museum Workshops Train Teachers in Diversity Learning
Educators can attend workshops at the museum that are specifically designed for them on building classroom curriculum about the historic aspects of early immigrants. The workshops include details on basic survival skills of the early immigrants. This included learning to buy and sell goods in the neighborhood. Outdoor markets, corner stores, bakeries, meats and dry goods stores shaped the overarching definition of what it means to live in an American city in an immigrant neighborhood.

Teachers will participate in discussions on individual immigrant histories and how families preserved their traditions to enrich the ever-changing cultural history of the United States. Sadly, part of this story involves a hard look at discrimination. The details of discriminatory hiring, housing and social practices against early immigrants can pave the way for a more complete and empathetic understanding of the difficulties in their lives. Large groups of people from various countries and backgrounds came to the United States for different reasons. One of the major reasons was to improve their situations by making better livelihoods - for themselves and their children. The U.S. offered this by being the ‘land of opportunity.’

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