Arab-American Museum in Dearborn Provides a Glimpse into Diverse Community

October 24, 2005

Source: The New York Times

On October 24, 2005 The New York Times reported, "At the heart of the nation's first museum devoted to the history of Arab-Americans [in Detroit, Michigan] is a mosaic-decorated courtyard surrounding a small fountain, evoking the traditional courtyard of Arab lands. A symbol of hospitality, it is also, typically, a feature of one's home, and this museum is, in its way, a declaration that Arab-Americans really are at home, not just in Dearborn (where some 30 percent of the 100,000 residents identify themselves as Arab-Americans) but in the United States itself. The surest sign of that may be that, like other groups, they have built this museum honoring their past and their identity. And the 38,500-square-foot, $16 million Arab American National Museum, which opened in May, is, like other museums of American hyphenation, at once an assertion of difference and of belonging, a declaration of distinction and of loyalty. It would be making a political statement even if it weren't directly across the street from City Hall... Constructing Arab-American identity means accommodating differences both within the community and with its adopted society... As the exhibits point out, Arab-Americans have traditionally identified themselves with their village or country of origin rather than with a pan-Arab sensibility. At least three of those nations also helped construct the museum. Qatar contributed $1 million, Saudi Arabia and Dubai $500,000 each."