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LEWISTON - We are a country of immigrants. We are a community of immigrants! Museum L-A invites the public to the opening reception for its new exhibit Rivers of Immigration: Peoples of the Androscoggin from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, October 24. Admission for that day is free.

In the 1800's we saw waves of Irish and French-Canadian immigrants come to Lewiston-Auburn. Then, other new refugees followed - Lithuanians, Germans, Greeks and Italians among the many. This exhibit not only showcases the cultural diversity of the Twin Cities, but also reminds us that history repeats itself in the immigrant experience.

"Lots of strife and struggle ensued as they all tried to find a place in their "NEW" community on the Androscoggin River" notes Museum L-A executive director Rachel Desgrosseilliers. Many remember the help wanted signs stating: "French need not apply!" Those that were here first thought that those who came after were "other than us" folk that threatened a way of life. "We broke down the barriers, we assimilated, and we blended together sharing each other's cultures," Desgrosseilliers continued.

Between 2005 and 2007, waves of "new people" started arriving. Once again-they are different.

Through a major collaborative effort, the exhibit features some of those old and new immigrants. An illustrated timeline shows immigrant groups who have settled in Lewiston-Auburn and the time period they arrived. Using research by Museum L-A's Education Director, Annette Vance-Dorey with a Bates College student intern, Kaleigh Pare, the timeline gives us a clear view of the immigration story from the early 1800's to the present.

Also collaborating with the Museum are Anne Kemper, Counselor/Coordinator of the Lewiston Adult Education Adult Learning Center and Catherine Besteman, Professor of Anthropology at Colby College as well as members and leaders of the local Somali Bantu community.

Kemper's students, who are adult English language learners, have contributed stories and photographs about their journeys from their homelands to their new life in Lewiston. Her students include Somali, Sudanese, Chinese, Russian, Peruvian, Mexican and Togolese immigrants.

Rivers of Immigration includes selections from "The Somali Bantu Experience: From East Africa to Maine," an exhibit curated by Besteman and presented at Colby College Museum of Art last fall. Through photographs taken by Besteman, Jorge Acero and Colby students, the exhibit explores the stories of members of the Somali Bantu ethnic minority who were forced to flee the civil war in Somalia and have resettled in Lewiston. The photographs depict their life in their homeland and their efforts to maintain their culture as they settle into their new community.

An interactive Writing Wall invites visitors to contribute their thoughts in English or their native language sharing their own stories of immigration to the area. Community members are encouraged to bring in photographs of their ancestors who came to Lewiston-Auburn.

"With this exhibit, Desgrosseilliers states, we hope that we can once again learn from each other and celebrate the diversity which led us before to a richer community heritage."

A sharing of ethnic foods - Greek, French Canadian, Irish and Somali as well as ethnic dance and music will be part of the opening. The community is welcome.

Museum L-A is dedicated to preserving and celebrating the rich history of work and community in Lewiston-Auburn. It is located at 35 Canal St. in the Bates Mill Complex at the corner of Canal and Chestnut streets in Lewiston. Please call 207-333-3881 or email info@museumla.org for more information.