Immigration:Connecting the Past, Present, and Future

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. 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.

Thanks to a multi-year donation from the Nestico Family Fund, the Baltimore Museum of Industry has offered a range of initiatives supporting new citizens and English language learners in the Baltimore area.

Naturalization Ceremonies

The BMI has hosted two naturalization ceremonies in partnership with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 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, for 30 adults, took place in January 2020 honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. 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.


The BMI partnered with the English Language Services department at Baltimore City Community College on training and virtual programs. BCCC has offered a robust citizenship preparation program for two decades and continued to serve Baltimore residents from all over the world virtually during the pandemic. We offered four live, virtual tours of the museum to English language learners from BCCC in November 2020. Participants saw the galleries via Zoom, shared their own work stories, and raised interesting questions about working in Baltimore in the past and present.

In spring 2021, we partnered on a video series with Luminus, a Howard County-based nonprofit that provides programs and direct services to help New Americans achieve their goals and access community resources and opportunities. While the museum was still closed to the public, Luminus Executive Director Mike Mitchell and videographer Mitchell Osterhouse of Ohouse Films interviewed five individuals who shared their personal stories of immigrating to the U.S. and working in different Baltimore industries. View the videos on LinkedIn.

As of fall 2021, the BMI now offers a Spanish audio tour. The translations were taken on by Baker Cruz Services, a Maryland family-owned business that specializes in translation and interpretation services for small businesses and nonprofits. They also translated our hands-on City Kit into Spanish, which we provided to four Baltimore City Public Schools meal distribution sites in summer 2020.

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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