Smithsonian To Examine Impact of Hart-Celler Act With New Display
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will present a new display that shows some of the impact that the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, had on the country. Opening May 12, “Tracing American Journeys” looks at the changing face of the nation through the stories and objects that represent more than 15 entrepreneurs in business, medicine and technology who came to the U.S. in the past 50 years.
The bill, first proposed by Rep. Emanuel Celler of New York and co-sponsored by Sen. Philip Hart of Michigan, transformed immigration laws from a system based on quotas limiting numbers of immigrants based on nationality to a system that gave visa preference to attracting skilled labor and professionals to the U.S. as well as family reunification. The law opened immigration from Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, changing the makeup of the American population by allowing a much wider and more diverse group of immigrants to become citizens.
“In keeping with the museum’s mission of highlighting the many voices that define American identities, ‘Tracing American Journeys’ explores the immigrant experience through the lens of business stories,” said Curator William Yeingst, chair of the museum’s Home and Community Life Division. “We are using personal objects, oral histories and photographs to build a contemporary record of the American immigrant experience.”
Personal objects such as family heirlooms brought to the U.S., articles of faith and religious devotion, jewelry, photographs and business-related artifacts tell the personal stories of immigrants from around the world who found a home in America. The objects on view are part of a larger collection that records the role of identity, cultural heritage and entrepreneurship within the American experience through oral histories and the donation of artifacts. More information on the collection and display are available at s.si.edu/2nhQuN5.
Among the stories featured in “Tracing American Journeys” are those of Bechara Nammour, founder of Capital Restaurant Concepts; Eli Harari, founder of SunDisk (later SanDisk); John J. Sie, founder of the Starz Entertainment Group and former Chairman and CEO of Micro State Electronics Corp., Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, founder of Strategic Investment Group; Mac Duggal, founder of Creative Imports and Mac Duggal; Ray and Shaista Mahmood, founders of Mahmood Investment Corp.; Jerry Yang, co-founder, Yahoo!; and Akiko Yamazaki, chairman of the board of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and co-founder of the Wildlife Conservation Network.
“Tracing American Journeys” is a companion display to the new permanent exhibition, “Many Voices, One Nation,” which opens June 28 within a newly transformed wing at the museum. Through almost 200 museum artifacts and about 100 loan objects, “Many Voices, One Nation,” will take visitors on a chronological and thematic journey showing how the many voices of the American people have contributed to and continue to shape the nation and its communities, from its earliest beginnings to the present.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is continuing to renovate its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on democracy and culture. The museum is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.