A free, public reception will be hosted by the MHHE at 4 p.m. July 11 at the KSU Center, 3333 Busbee Drive, Kennesaw. The exhibit’s website is http://marb.kennesaw.edu/identities.
Through photographs, oral histories, conversations and personal reflections, creators of the website hope to explore Moroccan and American identities.
The online exhibit is made possible by an $78,000 grant last July from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and American Association of Museums. The MHHE was one of only two institutions to receive the grant renewal as part of the AAM’s Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad program.
“Identities” builds on a previous $72,000 MCCA grant that connected student teams from MHHE and the Ben M’Sik Community Museum of Hassan II University in Casablanca, Morocco.
Between 2009 and 2010, the two museums collected more than 60 oral histories in their communities, hosted “Coffee and Conversation” programs with students and community members, and learned about life experiences of Muslims living in the American South, as well as Moroccan Muslims in the largely immigrant community of Ben M’sik, Casablanca.
“It’s a great reflection of the Moroccan and Kennesaw State University students’ work,” said Julia Brock, MHHE curator.
“We wanted to have a place to showcase the oral histories they’ve done and data they collected at the “Coffee and Conversations.” But we also wanted to explore identity and we did that mainly through a photography project.”
Students from both groups created a collection of photographs centered on themes of identity, migration, belonging and community.
“As people went around Kennesaw or Atlanta, but also Casablanca, they were also taking photos based on these themes to talk about what their identity meant to them,” said Richard Harker, MHHE education and outreach coordinator.
As part of the project, members of the two groups also conducted survey and focus groups, and drew from surveys administered by the previous project teams to gauge peer perceptions of Islam and the U.S. In addition, a KSU team traveled to Morocco last December and a group from Morocco met with a KSU group on a visit of museums and other sights this past March in Washington, D.C.
Brock said findings from the project show that Southerners and Moroccans have more commonalities than they may realize, such as placing importance on family, traditions, food and faith.
KSU graduate Stefanie Green and senior Chris Harris participated in the project, including traveling to Morocco, and said it served as an eye-opening experience for both of them.
Harris, who is studying American history, said he hopes people from all over the world will visit the new website and submit their own viewpoints and personal stories.
“I hope that people come away with a broadening of their understanding of what they think of people who are different from them,” said Green, who graduated in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in history.
“I’m originally from New York and I think of myself as broad-minded. That changed when I went somewhere else and I realized I had perceptions of people.”