Smithsonian Interested in Acquiring Drawings Made by Migrant Children Held in US Custody

The distressing images depict unhappy stick figures in cages

A child’s drawing depicting time in a US detention center, 2019. Courtesy: American Academy of Pediatrics and CNN

A child’s drawing depicting time in a US detention center, 2019. Courtesy: American Academy of Pediatrics and CNN

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. has expressed interest in obtaining a set of drawings made by three migrant children of their time held in a detention centre. The images depict stick figures with sad faces behind bars.

The three children who made the drawings were released last week from the US Customs and Border Control custody and drew the pictures while at a respite centre in Texas. The children are aged between ten and eleven.

In a statement issued to frieze, a representative from The Smithsonian said: ‘The museum has a long commitment to telling the complex and complicated history of the United States and to documenting that history as it unfolds, such as it did following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and as it does with political campaigns.’

The Smithsonian made an inquiry last week on 4 July after reading about the drawings in a news story published by CNN. According to a statement issued by the museum, the inquiry was part of an ‘exploratory process’.

Renee Romano, a history professor at Oberlin College has praised the museum, saying: ‘I think it's an amazing stance, honestly, by the Smithsonian, and a brave stance, to say that this is historically significant.’

‘Something like a children's drawing is not typically something that a museum is going to say, “This is something we would collect and protect,”’ she continued. ‘[But] these kinds of artworks are really about what are they thinking and feeling at this particular moment. How do we see this experience from their perspective? That's really, really powerful.’

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