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Identities: Understanding Islam in a Cross-Cultural Context is a Museums & Community Collaborations Abroad (MCCA) funded program. MCCA is made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and is administered by the American Association of Museums. The opinions, finding, and conclusions stated herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

Identities builds on a previous MCCA grant, Creating Community Collaboration, that connected student teams from the Museum of History and Holocaust Education (Kennesaw State University) and the Ben M'Sik Community Museum (Hassan II University, Casablanca, Morocco). Between 2009 and 2010, these two museums gathered over 60 oral histories from their local neighbors, hosted “Coffee and Conversation” programs with students and community members, and learned about life experiences of Muslims living in the U.S. South as well as Moroccan Muslims in the largely immigrant community of Ben M’sik, Casablanca.

Identities continues the strong tradition of partnership and collaboration between the MHHE and BMCM. As part of a second MCCA grant, project teams built an online exhibit focused on themes of identity, migration, belonging, and community, using stories and experiences from the past project as well as content generated through an ongoing photography project. Both BMCM and MHHE team members also conducted surveys and focus groups, as well as drew from surveys administered by the previous teams, in order to gauge peer perceptions of Islam and the United States.

While the initial grant established a knowledge base and rapport between the teams and communities of Kennesaw and Ben M’Sik, this new phase digs deeper in its focus on the specific kinds of identity-formations created by immigrant communities in both cultures, as well as the intentional collaboration with community members in the development of exhibit content.

Our exhibit included community input as part of the creation of the exhibit itself. In this way, this exhibit is not only about community; it is created in partnership with community. The result will reflect both the differences as well as the commonalities that exist in the experiences and complexities of identity and community in the American South and in Ben M’Sik, Morocco.