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By Ellen Engseth
Curator, Immigration History Research Center Archives and Head, Migration and Social Services Collections

The Immigration History Research Center Archives, with our colleague Immigration History Research Center, celebrates 50 years this fall!

Our earliest history dates to 1963 when we began as the “Immigrant Archives” within the University of Minnesota Libraries, with the goals to fill gaps regarding many immigrant groups not well documented elsewhere. In 1965, the College of Liberal Arts in collaboration with the University Libraries chartered a Center for Immigration Studies. This Center was renamed the Immigration History Research Center (IHRC) in 1974.

From 1965 through 2013, the archives and library was managed in cooperation with the Center’s other research and programmatic work. In 2013, these collections returned to the University Libraries, now within Archives and Special Collections. Throughout these five decades, we and our friends and supporters have succeeded in preserving and sharing important sources on migration to and through the United States and contributing in very meaningful ways to scholarship, community-based academic work, and archival practice. We are now one of the nation’s leading archival/library repositories of source material on im/migration and ethnicity.

‘People on the Move’ exhibit

An image of the "People on the Move" exhibit showing the title banner, display cases and suitcases.We are celebrating our anniversary with an Andersen Library Gallery exhibit: People on the Move: 50 Years of Documenting and Researching Migration Experiences at the Immigration History Research Center & Archives. The exhibit, curated by Ellen Engseth and Daniel Necas and designed by Darren Terpstra, is open to the public and will run through January 22, 2016. People on the Move presents the two themes of global migration as a broad human experience and the unique story of the Immigration History Research Center and Archives.

Joel Wurl returns for exhibit opening reception

An image of a large room filled with people hearing a speaker celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IHRC/A.On October 29, we formally opened the exhibit at a reception, the highlight of which was the return of former Curator and Associate Director Joel Wurl as featured speaker. Wurl brought back many wonderful memories reaffirming the significance of our past as well as delivering encouraging words for our future.

Following the program, guests explored People on the Move, many choosing to contribute a journey of their choice to a map of global migration. We were joined by over 100 friends and supporters at this reception, including the Friends of the Immigration History Research Center & Archives and the Friends of the Libraries. 

More than 200 attended interdisciplinary conference

Our anniversary was additionally commemorated through an important interdisciplinary conference hosted by the Immigration History Research Center and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (IEHS) and held at the University of Minnesota in October. 

Immigrant America marked the 50th anniversaries of both the Center and the IEHS as well as the anniversary of the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act. Over 200 people gathered for two days to discuss the meaning of the act as well as the field of im/migration history, including topics such as “The Minnesota School of Immigration and Refugee Studies” and interdisciplinary approaches.

Four archives displayed materials this fall

People using the map in the "People on the Move" exhibit to mark the journey of their families.Further, this fall and winter the four archives which comprise of Migration and Social Services Collections (MSSC) are currently displaying materials regarding immigration, refugees, and transfer of cultural knowledge and identity. These include:

  • The Immigration History Research Center Archives shares material on the topic of Armenian Genocide, the centennial of which is being commemorated worldwide in 2015.
  • The Social Welfare History Archives presents items selected to show its strengths of international social services to refugees, acculturation efforts, adoption, war brides and orphans, and trafficking; see, for example, a 1956 comic quiz from Superman Comics’ Buzzy’s Special: Do You Know the People of Your Country?
  • The Upper Midwest Jewish Archives documents Jewish settlement in Minnesota, North and South Dakota primarily, as well as beyond: a report from the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigration Aid Society of America lists the number of “Immigrant brought to HIAS shelters in airports: 1751” in 1948, and in 1949, “number of meals served to immigrants: 604, 075.”
  • The YMCA Archives presents documents, photos, and publications of the YMCA Press and the Chekhov Publishing House. These presses served the Russian diaspora during the Soviet era through publishing, securing or advancing non-Soviet Russian culture and intellectual output. All this can be found on the 3rd floor of Andersen Library, home of MSSC.

We look forward to our next 50 years at the Immigration History Research Center Archives, and sincerely thank all of our supporters.

Mark Engebretson

Author Mark Engebretson

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