Is the one from April 18, 2011, with the “Journeys” theme. Fittingly, this is the issue I happened to grab for my trip to Europe last month, and I read it slowly, on a train in northern Scotland, in a small town in southern Italy, during the white nights of Helsinki’s midsummer. Under the heading “Coming to America,” it has one-page reminiscences from six different writers about their experiences immigrating to the United States. I was particularly struck by Lore Segal’s piece, “Spry for Frying,” in which she talks about her memories of moving to New York City from Austria, by way of Dominican Republic. She writes at the end:
“The refugee in me still feels displaced when I leave New York. It’s not in America, not in the United States, that I’ve put down roots. It is in Manhattan.”
This quote reminded me of a point Jette Sandahl, the director of the Museum of Copenhagen, made in a talk she gave at Harvard back in April. She said that one either is or isn’t a Dane—this is determined by where you are born—but one can choose or not choose to be a Copenhagener:
“In the city we are more interested in where we are going than where we came from.”
Sandahl went on to say that city museums have a duty to emphasize diversity and teach tolerance, because part of the experience of living in a city means learning to share the same apartment building, or subway car, or park bench with the many different kinds of people who have also chosen that city to put down roots.
In my own way I am an immigrant in Boston. It’s true that I was born an American, but I come from a part of the US that’s quite different culturally from this New England city. I have chosen to be a Bostonian, and I love my city all the more for the ways it reveals itself to me slowly over time. I like the idea of a city museum that has room for me and all the people I see on my block and in the subway and the park. So how do we make that happen? The Museum of Copenhagen is taking on these issues this year in an exhibition, Becoming a Copenhagener. I look forward to seeing it this fall.