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World on the Move

A Traveling Exhibition about Migration and Displacement, and Its “Crossroads” Narrative Device

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Keywords:

Human Migration, Displacement, Exhibition, Beringia, Mediterranean Peoples, General Europe, Central Africa, East Los Angeles, Crossroads

Abstract

Most exhibitions about migration and displacement put the visitor at a destination where they consider who was there earlier, who came later, how these later arrivals adjusted to new surroundings, and how the hosts adjusted to the late-comers. In contrast, for World on the Move: 250,000 Years of Human Migration, we have employed the “Crossroads” device, where the exhibition visitor has a vantage point from which they regard multiple movement flows without the othering, highlighting how everyone has a migration story somewhere in their family history. The traveling exhibition, a project involving the American Anthropological Association, the Smithsonian, and the American Library Association, is bringing current scholarship to light to help change the public conversation about migration and displacement. While commonly framed as a modern-day crisis, we know that human populations have always been on the move. Gathering, hunting, and pastoral nomadism involved patterns of seasonal and multi-year migratory cycles. Commerce, contact, conflict, and natural disasters have propelled further movement, sometimes voluntarily but often under duress and coercion. Our treatment of this history highlights a range of responses, intentionally framed broadly, reflecting the grand historical scope of the story of human migration. The framing device of the Crossroads fixes the visitor’s gaze on movements across the landscape over time, whether seeking economic opportunity, escaping conflict and harm, coerced by trafficking or enslavement, or displaced by gentrification, natural disasters, and global environmental change.

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Posted

2022-06-14