Know Your Org: Arab American National Museum

"Know Your Org" is an informational series designed to spotlight some of the wonderful organizations in our community. This month we are highlighting the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn and reached out to Lujine, Communications Specialist at the AANM, to find out more. 

Q: What is the mission of the AANM and its values?

A: "Mission: The Arab American National Museum is a touchstone that connects communities to Arab American culture and experiences.

Values: Since opening in 2005, AANM’s goal has been to document, preserve and present the history, culture and contributions of Arab Americans. Our exhibitions cover the Arab world and the history of Arab Americans from the first immigrants who arrived in the late 19th century to today. We offer safe spaces for open dialogue and community gatherings and provide educational opportunities for children and students of all ages to expand their knowledge and appreciation of Arab American history and culture. We work with established and emerging artists of all artistic mediums to uplift their work and share it with our regional and national audiences. All of this is intended to build community through the arts by showcasing our nation’s cultural diversity in thoughtful and impacting ways."

Q: What is the history of the AANM?

A: "AANM opened its doors to the public in 2005. Before becoming a museum with a physical building, the founding director, Dr. Anan Ameri, managed an arts and culture program at AANM’s parent institution, ACCESS. When the idea for a museum spread and became reality, Dr. Ameri, alongside notable legends in Dearborn, opened the museum. Now, AANM has one of the most extensive archives of Arab American historical documents, oral histories and artifacts. We are the only museum in the country that actively collects Arab American art.

During the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, AANM closed its doors for two years; however, we successfully pivoted all programming to an online model and increased our national, and even international, reach."

Q: How many people work at the museum and are there any volunteer opportunities?

A: "The Museum has a staff of about 30 people. The number is approximate as some staff, such as docents, are part-time or support as needed.

Volunteers are always welcome and appreciated. To learn more about how to volunteer at AANM, visit our website."

Q: What makes this museum unique to Dearborn, MI?

A: "This museum is unique to Dearborn and to the entire country. AANM is the only museum to document and present the history of Arab immigrants in the U.S. and their descendants. As Dearborn has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the United States and is often dubbed the 'heart of Arab America,' it only makes sense that it also houses the Arab American National Museum."

Q: What would you say visitors learn the most from the museum? 

A: "It truly depends on the person. If the visitor is of Arab heritage, the first reflection we hear from them is that AANM serves as a 'home away from home.' For everyone else, they learn that Arab immigrants and their descendants have had a long history in North America and they gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be an Arab American today."

Q: Where do you get the majority of your information and historical objects from?

A: "Almost all of our objects and artifacts have been donated by Arabs and Arab Americans from Dearborn and around the country. Other pieces are commissioned of artists by the Museum."

Q: How often do you add or change exhibits?

A: "Our Core Galleries rarely change, but the Main Floor Gallery and temporary gallery spaces rotate artworks frequently, but it just depends on the agreement with each artist. Currently, we have a temporary exhibition called Colonial Colonnade by Doris Bittar; it’s been up since November 2023 and will remain on view until June 2024. You can learn more by visiting this page on our website."

Q: Does the museum do anything special for Arab American Heritage Month such as events or exhibits?

A: "Arab American Heritage Month is one of our busiest times of the year! Lots of schools book field trips for April ahead of time and if teachers are interested, they should reach out today! Businesses and corporations also book cultural competency trainings and special guided tours. Also, admission to AANM is free throughout the entirety of Arab American Heritage Month.

Our April events include a theatrical performance, a panel conversation with Indigenous and Arab elders, a film screening, and more. All of our events are listed here."

Q: What are the museum's hours?

A: "AANM is open to the public 11:00 AM-6:00 PM on Thursdays and Fridays, and noon-6:00 PM on Saturdays. Again, admission will be free throughout April!

We also strongly encourage everyone to become a member of AANM because you’ll get discounted rates on all events as well as a discount at the AANM Store. Speaking of which, the news everyone has been waiting for: the AANM Store is now open!"

Q: What is the best way for people to donate?

A: "The best way to donate to the Museum is by visiting the Join & Give page on our website."