I was stoked to stumble across this article about multilingual museum programs the other day. While I wasn’t surprised to read about museums hosting multicultural programs for events like Day of the Dead of the Dead or Chinese New Year, a bilingual or immersion children’s program was news to me. The article focuses on New York museums (fitting, since it’s from the NY Times), but it also mentions museum programs in different California cities. The Zimmer Children’s Museum in Los Angeles offers programs in Spanish, Japanese and Persian, based on demand from different ethnic audiences!
The most exciting aspect of museums amping up their cultural offerings is that they can draw and sustain the interest of immigrant families and communities. Parents can participate alongside their children in native-language programs in ways that may not be possible with English-language programs. They can also share meaningful cultural practices with their children via museum events in ways that are more rich and dynamic than they might be able to convey alone at home. Museums are already such incredible sources of knowledge and education, by drawing groups that are historically deprived of educational capital, museums are serving populations in increasingly equitable ways. And by talking up museum events that are accessible to all of your students, you can build community and cultural understanding in your classroom, with the rare luxury of being an organic participant, rather than facilitator-organizer. What’s not to love?
Here in DC, I’m familiar with the Smithsonian Latino Center, which hosts free events and school-aged workshops, has museum holdings, and offers bilingual educational materials. When we decided to move to DC, I positively quivered with excitement at the thought of exposing my future children to so many great resources as they came of age. I still haven’t sought out any events relevant to my one-year-old yet, but it’s only a matter of time before you see us as a permanent fixture at Smithsonian offerings.
Are you familiar with multicultural or multilingual museum programs in your area? I’d love to compile a list, based on your input!