Immigration:Connecting the Past, Present, and Future

Naturalization Ceremonies

Immigrants have long played an integral role in Baltimore’s industrial history. The BMI is committed to connecting this past with present—and future—Baltimore residents.

The BMI celebrates the role of immigrants and the contributions they made to the city of Baltimore. As you walk in the front entrance of the museum, you immediately see signage in the lobby about immigrants and a list of the places they came from. From Ottmar Mergenthaler’s arrival from Germany and his subsequent invention that revolutionized the print industry, to the women working in the sweatshops of the garment industry, many of the innovations, inventions, and hard work were done by people new to America.

The port of Baltimore was the second leading point of entry for immigrants, after Ellis Island. The influx of these new arrivals helped to create the rich diversity we have here today, with neighborhoods full of restaurants, churches, and festivals dedicated to preserving and sharing the best of individual cultures with other groups. Each new American has the potential to follow the tradition of those who came before, and make their mark on the world.

The BMI has hosted two naturalization ceremonies in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The first one, in October 2019, was specifically for children, and all participants were under the age of 14. Seventeen countries were represented including: Burma, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Montserrat, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Russia, and Vietnam. The second ceremony took place in January, 2020. Both ceremonies featured moving speeches about the positive contributions of immigrants to our community, and lots of hugs and tears from joyous family members and friends.

Baltimore City Community College Partnership

Another initiative was launched last year when the BMI began reaching out to local organizations that serve immigrant communities to learn how the museum could best support their work. The result is a partnership with Baltimore City Community College, which offers free citizenship preparation classes.

With the guidance of BCCC staff, the BMI Education Department designed a brand-new, facilitated group experience for English language learners. The program was set to begin in spring 2020, but plans were put on hold when the BMI closed due to COVID-19. After taking the summer to recalibrate, the project was reimagined as a virtual program. Each hour-long session provides participants with an immersive, virtual tour of BMI exhibitions while highlighting the role that immigrants played in building our city into an industrial powerhouse. Tours also include opportunities for participants to practice their English skills.

The BMI offered four sessions to students enrolled in BCCC’s Citizenship Preparation and English Language Instruction programs in November. Feedback gained through these experiences will be used to fine-tune the program so that the museum can begin offering this virtual tour to additional groups in 2021.

The BMI is grateful to the generosity of the Nestico family for making these citizenship initiatives possible and to our partners at BCCC for sharing their expertise and experience with us.

Visit the BMI’s Connection Factory to connect with stories that show how education, exhibitions, and partnerships strengthen our community.

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