Visiting the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn
The multiculti stew of diverse populations calling the Detroit area home translates into an amazing array of opportunities to sample the differences—and the similarities—that make our area so unique.
Much like following a trail of interlinking Web sites to find just about any fascinating thing you could imagine finding on the Internet, following the links between different cultural groups and events around town sometimes can lead you into some really interesting discoveries.
Such was the case when we originally visited the Arab American National Museum (AANM) in Dearborn because we wanted to see a photo exhibit from Detroit’s fabulous Concert of Colors.
We’ve attended the Concert of Colors, Detroit’s annual diversity music festival, for several years and invariably discover some great new tunes to keep our iPods going throughout the rest of the year.
(Note: Organizers recently confirmed the date of this year’s Concert of Colors, so expect to see a story and some photos from prior years’ shows from me here as the date draws closer and I receive a confirmed bill of acts booked to play this year).
But back to the AANM!
The museum’s brightly tiled façade marks its home along a nondescript stretch of Dearborn’s Michigan Avenue and gives a tiny hint of the building’s bright and colorful interior.
More after the break…
Stepping into the museum on a dreary day is like stepping into another world as sun streams into the 38,500-square-foot building’s three-story atrium through a beautiful domed ceiling, spotlighting the intricate tile and wood work throughout the building and a large fountain centering the atrium.
Dearborn’s Arab American population of 30,000 comprises approximately one third of that city’s total population of nearly 100,000. This means Dearborn has one of the largest concentrations of citizens of Arabic ancestry or ethnic origin in similarly sized U.S. cities.
The AANM, which draws an estimated 50,000 visitors annually, opened in 2005 as the nation’s first museum dedicated to the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans.
The story of the immigrant experience for Arab Americans coming to America dominates much of the museum’s permanent exhibit area. The stories of the passage to America, families left behind and the struggles of embracing a new home play out with recorded oral histories and thoughtfully arranged displays.
The museum also emphasizes the success stories of Arab Americans and their contributions to American society, including well-known folks of Arab American background with strong Michigan or Ohio connections like journalist Helen Thomas, comedian Danny Thomas, actor Jamie Farr and disc jockey/voice actor Casey Kasem.
Check the AANM’s Web site for information about the museum’s current exhibits, like the collection of photographs documenting the life of a Yemeni community in New York during the 1970s (now through August 16), and museum events like the 14th annual Dearborn Arab International Festival June 19-21 and, my favorite, the 17th annual Concert of Colors diversity music festival at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit July 18-19.
Museum hours are 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Thursday and noon until 5 p.m. Sunday. General admission costs $6.