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PS Picks: The New 'Under One Roof' Exhibit at New York's Tenement Museum

PS Picks is a selection of the best things that the magazine's staff and contributors are reading, watching, or otherwise paying attention to in the worlds of art, politics, and culture.
Under One Roof.

Under One Roof.

Since 1988, New York's Lower East Side Tenement Museum has been offering visitors a chance to contemplate the immigration history of the United States by stepping into a historic building, erected in 1865 and seemingly untouched by time. Until recently, though, that history stopped in the year 1935, the year when the tenement, the museum's first and primary space, standing at 97 Orchard Street, ceased to function as a residential building.

With its new exhibit Under One Roof—located in another Orchard Street tenement building, erected in 1888—the Tenement Museum's latest narrative considers the lives and fates of immigrant groups who arrived in New York in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Also, you don't even have to be in New York to enjoy it: Presented as a series of photographs, video interviews, and primary source documents like Census and naturalization records, the digital exhibit takes a physical installation (Under One Roof is also offered as a tour at the museum) and opens it to the world, so that visitors can learn the specific histories of Jewish, Puerto Rican, and Chinese families, all from the comfort of classrooms and homes. Especially affecting are interviews with former residents of Orchard Street recalling childhoods that, through the traditions of home (food and religion are two oft-cited cornerstones of immigrant life) and the new delights of America (television! candy!), might prove instructive to anyone curious about the inner lives of current-day migrants.

A version of this story originally appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of Pacific Standard. Subscribe now and get eight issues/year or purchase a single copy of the magazine.