University of Minnesota
Immigration History Research Center

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From the Director

Greetings from the IHRC!

An email from a former student made its way into my email inbox recently. Enrolled in my U.S. immigration history class last semester, he had participated in many of our discussions about comprehensive immigration reform and how it related to previous immigration debates. This past summer, he was an intern for U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and was in the Senate chamber as they debated the Senate’s immigration reform proposal. He couldn’t believe how history seemed to be repeating itself, and he wished that more of our nation’s leaders could have taken a class in immigration history!

Preserving immigration history and connecting it to our contemporary world is what we do at the IHRC and Archives, and it has been a busy year! We are planning a number of 50th anniversary projects, and with a seed grant from the Office of Equity and Diversity, we launched a new “Immigrant Stories Oral History and Digital Archive” to capture the experiences of recent immigrants and refugees. We’ve organized events on Immigration Reform (March, 2013), Somali American Diasporas (April, 2013), Estonian Research and Archives (May, 2013), and Arab American History and Culture (October, 2013). This recent conference was a wonderful partnership with the U of M’s Religious Studies Program and the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, MI. As Prof. Nabil Mater (English, U of M) explained in his opening remarks, the symposium celebrated “the cooperation of two institutions that mark the coming of age of the Arab American community in the United States: the rich archive at the Immigration History Research Center and the far-reaching vision of the men and women who stand behind the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.”

Our regular Global Race, Ethnicity, and Migration lecture series continues to bring in researchers and students into the IHRC. And our partnership with the University Libraries has gotten off to an extremely promising start.
Together, the IHRC and IHRC Archives (IHRC/A) are hosting a special exhibit on campus from the Arab American National Museum called “Little Syria, NY: An Immigrant Community’s Life and Legacy.” Some items from the exhibit are from the IHRC Archives’ own collections.

My first year as IHRC Director has been a thrilling one as we strengthen old partnerships and form new ones. At a time when immigration continues to be in the news every day, I remain committed to enriching our conversations about how immigration history matters from the classroom to our communities, and even, to the Senate floor. Thank you to all of our IHRC friends and supporters.

Erika Lee
Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History
Director, Immigration History Research Center