At a time when immigration has been hotly debated in the United States, Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution; the Library of Virginia; and Virginia Humanities are encouraging dialogue about the issue with a new exhibition called New Virginians: 1619-2019 and Beyond. Officially opening to the public on December 13th, 2018, the free, year-long exhibit at the Library of Virginia showcases the experiences of Virginia’s immigrants and refugees.
The exhibit features personal video interviews with immigrants representing more than 30 countries and explores the multitude of reasons that bring immigrants and refugees to the Commonwealth. Featured stories include Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni, a former U.S. Marine and I.T Professional, a teacher, a professional photographer, a doctor, missionaries, and folklorists who all share the details of the journey from their home country to their new life in Virginia.
In addition, the exhibit shares items that complement and add a tangible element to the compelling narratives in the exhibit. These items include a graduation stole, a copy of Wedding Song, a memoir by Farideh Goldin, a mask crafted by Ganna Natsag for a Mongolian ts
am (masked dance) ceremony, a stringed instrument called a charango from Bolivia, and a Qur’an.
Less than 50 years ago, only one of every 100 people living in Virginia were born outside of the United States. Recent estimates now place the number of foreign-born Virginians at 1 million, comprising 12.2 percent of Virginia’s population. The exhibit highlights the diversity of the Commonwealth and threads personal stories of refugees and immigrants into an honest discussion about blended cultures in the United States. New Virginians offers visitors the opportunity to hear stories from voices that are traditionally marginalized, and the exhibit serves as a reminder of the multitude of experiences and vibrant and diverse population that call Virginia home.