When the New Americans Museum opened in Liberty Station in 2008, it offered San Diegans a place to explore the politically charged topic of immigration. The museum spearheaded an oral-histories project—immigrant stories captured in an in-house recording studio—and hosted touring exhibitions, immigrant essay contests, events, forums and more.
Founded in 2001 by philanthropist Deborah Szekely, the nonprofit operated out of a cramped Downtown office before moving to its Point Loma exhibition space. The economic downturn of 2008, however, made the move a challenge. In the face of waning foundation and grant support, the museum closed a year-and-a-half after opening. This week, however, the museum announced that it's ready to reopen.
"It's a fresh new start," says Linda Caballero Sotelo, the museum's new executive director. "We want to continue a lot of the programming, but the most fundamental change is a focus on bringing original, commissioned exhibitions to the museum and also reactivating our educational programming, but with technology... The museum spent the downtime regrouping and rethinking. We really want to activate community participation and bring technology in."
The museum will digitize its oral-histories archive and enable online access. It'll also bring in guest curators to piece together original exhibitions and continue to explore the topics of identity, displacement, diversity and myriad contributions of post-World War II immigrants.
"One of the things that compelled me about working for the New Americans Museum was the opportunity to be in a space and work on a project that actually does what it says it's going to do," Caballero Sotelo says. "We celebrate immigrant stories as part of the fabric of our nation and part of what makes our country great."
The museum won't officially kick things off until January, but folks can get a sneak peak at the facility (2825 Dewey Road) during NTC Arts & Culture District's Dia de los Muertos Festival from Saturday, Nov. 1, through Friday, Nov. 7. The museum will also host a pop-up exhibition, Altar Installation in Homage to Rita Hayworth, and there'll be an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5.