One New Orleans woman shared a photo of the only ring she wears, one passed down from her great-grandmother who lived a short time in France before dying in childbirth. Another sent in a picture of the warm, corn-based arepas, a staple of her former life in Venezuela. Daniel Senentz Jr. photographed a nickel and two pennies, the fare his grandmother remembers paying to travel on the streetcar as a child in New Orleans in the 1950s.
These images and more are included in “Your Story Our Story,” a digital project by the Tenement Museum in New York that is partnering with The Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies to collect family stories from the public about immigration and migration through objects, photographs and other personal items.
The project will be on display throughout the 2018 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, April 27-May 6, inside the Cultural Pavilion. Here, visitors will be able to interact with the stories through a large touchscreen monitor. Students from the University of New Orleans Department of History will staff the booth throughout the event and will be able to answer questions from visitors who may be interested in sharing their own stories and artifacts with the site, which anyone is welcome to access online.
“We are so glad that New York’s Tenement Museum created this site as well as a way for institutions around the country, like the Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at UNO, to partner with them,” said Mary Niall Mitchell, co-director of the Midlo Center and the Ethel & Herman L. Midlo Chair in New Orleans Studies. “‘Your Story Our Story’ is an engaging, luminous project that captures the personal stories of movement, displacement and cultural interaction that illustrate the richly diverse nation we live in. People also have the option of submitting a voice recording of their story rather than typing it in.”
The Midlo Center launched its gallery within the Tenement Museum’s larger “Your Story Our Story” project as part of New Orleans’ Tricentennial Symposium in March.
“As a port city,” Mitchell said, “New Orleans has a long, complex history of cultural interaction between diverse populations, including indigenous groups and peoples from around the world. From everyday objects to historical artifacts, recipes to family portraits, our gallery is a repository for the personal histories of the city's residents and how they—or their ancestors—made New Orleans home.”
The project is in keeping with the Midlo Center’s mission of community engagement in that it captures the diversity of experiences within the history of New Orleans by asking the public to contribute their stories or their family’s stories of migration and immigration to the city, Mitchell said. When New Orleanians contribute their stories to the Midlo gallery, these will also be added to the national site.
“Your Story Our Story” is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Its aim, according to the Tenement Museum, is to “uncover the patterns that bind us, no matter where we came from or how long we’ve been here.”