How do you create a museum exhibit about a diverse segment of our community that results in an authentic, engaging and sincere visitor experience? It was clear from the outset that these answers needed to come from the community in which we were highlighting in Estamos Aqui, Latino residents living in Northeast Wisconsin.Concept to Creation
Conversations between the museum and local Latino community stakeholders including Casa ALBA Melanie began in the summer of 2014, following a small installation at the Neville called Out of the Shadows. Formal meetings to develop a large-scale exhibit began in July of 2015, with an exhibit committee of twelve community members and museum staff. Estamos Aqui: Celebrating Latino Identity in Northeast Wisconsin opened in May of 2017 and took two years of planning to define the themes and content of the 3,500 square foot exhibit.
The exhibit begins in a migrant worker cabin, similar to those that dotted Northeast Wisconsin between the 1930s and 1980s. One of the first families to live in a cabin like this was the Saldaña family. Antonio Saldaña, who was part of the exhibit committee, provided invaluable insights into what life was like as a migrant worker child living in a 14 foot by 24 foot shack with thirteen siblings. That cabin was part of a labor camp created for seasonal workers hired by the Bond Pickle Company in Oconto County, Wisconsin.
Today, more than 35,000 people of Latino identity live in Northeast Wisconsin. It is estimated that by the year 2060, one in four people living in Brown County will be of Latino heritage. Therefore, this exhibit could not have come at a more critical time, to be a gathering place to start the conversation about recognizing this cultural change and how to embrace it. The question each resident of Northeast Wisconsin will eventually need to answer is how will they react to this change? Why? Because that change is already here, Estamos Aquí!