The Lower East Side Tenement Museum has embraced the challenge of serving as a democracy-building institution by providing a venue for dialogue about immigration-related issues. It has also, through its Shared Journeys program, involved new immigrants in these dialogues, and so engaged people who are not yet naturalized citizens in the practice of citizenship. In this process, the museum is redefining what it means to be a citizen, and by extension, creating a more inclusive and thus more dynamic democracy.
Sites of Conscience are historic places that foster public dialogue on pressing contemporary issues in historical perspective. This foreword to a collection of essays from members of the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience highlights diverse approaches to opening historic sites for civic dialogue. The collection explores the challenges sites around the world face to hosting public conversation on difficult subjects in their different political contexts, and some of the strategies they have used to address those challenges. The foreword reflects on the perspectives international examples provide for U.S. museums that seek to serve as Sites of Conscience.