The raft is the generous loan of Mr. Brian Innis, who also put together the display with my wife Beth and myself.
The display is meant to present two ideas:
First, a physical example of the fragile boats and rafts people are employing in an attempt to reach safety across sometimes nearly 50 or more miles of open sea. So fragile that we already know many persons have perished in their attempts to escape desperate hardships.
Second, a set of images to connect the raft from the past to the present and latest moment of refugees who have taken to the seas in their moments of crisis. One row of images evokes the past through several specific refugee moments: The Mayflower in the 1600s, The Irish and German flight from hunger and conflict in the 1800s, the Vietnamese and Cuban boat people of the past 60 years. The front row of images are of Syrian refugees reaching shore in Greece and being met by rescue teams.
The Mayflower reminds us that America has been a symbol of refuge from its earliest years of European settlement. The most predominant ethnicities in our immediate area have all been part of large immigrations driven by need for refuge: Germans leaving civil strife in the 1800s, Irish leaving famine in the 1840s, Eastern Europeans, Jews, and Italians and Latin Americans, Filipinos and Asians fleeing oppression, violence, poverty and lack of opportunity from the late 1800s to the present.
As you proceed past Mulry Hall, additional images in the first floor of Hogan will depict refugees from the past 100 years to the present, from Armenians from Turkey and Syria, some of the “Lost Boys” fleeing Sudan, Kurdish people from Iraq in the 1990s, and refugees from ethnic violence in Myanmar and Syria.