Some immigrants were lured to the United States by rumors that the streets were paved with gold.
The National Park Service (NPS) will try to make that rumor a reality with their “Streets Paved With Gold” exhibit that aims to collect stories from immigrants citywide. Peter Wong, supervisory park ranger for education, came up with the initiative.
“It’s based on the old immigration adage and because gold is used in so many immigrant stories we found that this was appropriate for them to reflect on their experience with immigration on these gold bricks,” he said.
Wong said that NPS is looking to collect several thousand responses on gold foil paper to add to the exhibit. Respondents can choose to write a letter to their immigrant ancestors, write a message to immigrants coming to the country today or write what they wish they would have known as immigrants themselves.
Wong added that he asked his mother, a Chinese immigrant who has lived in the United States for 35 years, to participate and that the two had “the most meaningful conversation on her immigrant story based on those questions.”
“People have connected to it,” he said. “If you could see their faces, were asking them questions that they’ve never really thought about, that delve so deep. They put up so many walls. These are questions they haven’t really been asked about.”
NPS has been collecting stories at libraries around the city and will visit two Queens libraries in the coming weeks. On Aug. 7 from 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can share your story at the Rochdale Village branch at 169-09 137th Ave.
On Aug. 14, NPS will be collecting stories at the Jackson Heights branch at 35-51 81st St. from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Wong said the responses can be about 150 words and people should respond in whatever language they feel the most comfortable using. They can also send responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. NPS will print out the emails and put them on the gold foil paper.
So far, they have collected stories and advice in more than 30 languages. The exhibit will open sometime next fall and NPS is still working out the logistics, Wong said.