EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The stated mission of the National Building Museum is to inspire curiosity about the world we design and build, even if it involves “structures of exclusion.”
One such structure, the wall along the southern border, is the topic of a new exhibition that opens Saturday at the museum in Washington, D.C.
“The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall?” exhibition examines the border wall designs, architecture, planning and engineering, as well as the effects of the border wall and immigration.
The exhibit “seeks to challenge visitors with a unique exploration of the history and impact of the U.S.-Mexico border infrastructure growth.”
“Borders are invented, imaginary places, they change over time, and they are policed differently over time,” says Sarah A. Leavitt, the exhibition curator. “What is happening on our border matters and it was important to me to be able to start telling this story. This is what museums should be for – leading this type of conversation.”
“The Wall” is an immersive, multi-media exhibition that features a broad range of iconic photographs, artifacts, video, and audio, presented in English and Spanish.
Visitors will be up close and personal with a full-size section of the border fence that once stood between Calexico, California, and Mexicali, Baja California.
The exhibit opens at a time when the country grapples with an immigration emergency fueled by a historic influx of migrants at the southern border, and a divided Congress, at odds over the need for immigration reform and border security.
“While border policy may dominate the news, we want to share a meaningful context for all visitors to better understand our southern border,” said Aileen Fuchs, National Building Museum president and executive director.
“The Wall” also examines the migrant experience, displaying belongings left behind in the Sonoran Desert.
And for those with a keen sense of hearing, a commissioned soundscape from the border at Otay Mesa, California, includes insects, wind, and the ever-present security drones.
“The Wall” also highlights other works of border-wall-inspired art, including the award-winning Teeter Totter that connected children in the U.S. and Mexico and a video of students from the University of Texas at El Paso playing violin for children on the other side of the border.
“The Wall” is a year-long exhibition, opening Nov. 6, 2021, and closing Nov. 6, 2022, at the National Building Museum, 401 F. St NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.