History Lab

Adoption history through the lens of social justice.

What Is History Lab

History Lab is an online space where the public can help build a new history of adoption, one that is told through a lens of social justice. Anyone with interest and an Internet connection can become a member of History Lab at no cost. Members can contribute ideas, objects and other content to this groundbreaking initiative.

Starting as a Prototype

History Lab will launch in Spring 2018 as a prototype. This will be a first version with an initial set of features and, almost certainly, some bugs to work out.

What Members Can Do

During the prototype period, History Lab Members will be able to do four things:

1.   Submit descriptions of objects for inclusion in an online gallery
2.   Learn about objects that other Members have submitted
3.   Provide feedback and ideas to History Lab developers
4.   Receive updates on History Lab progress

Members will also enjoy an up-close view of what we’re building and have a chance to impact the next version through their feedback.

About Objects

What objects illustrate adoption history? That’s our question for you — and it’s wide open for interpretation. Does history mean 100 years or 30 days ago? Is an object a physical thing you can hold in your hand, like a hospital bracelet or a document, or can it be a sound or a recorded memory? What objects represent an individual’s experience of adoption, and what objects represent the system and practice of adoption? How would you describe your object so that someone else could understand its meaning and importance to history?

During the prototype, we will accept only descriptions and images of objects. We cannot take possession of any objects themselves. (We’ll need a storage facility and expert staff for that!) When History Lab launches, we will provide details about the information Members can submit about their object, as well as explanations of the privacy and security measures we will be taking.

Being limited to text and images creates an exciting opportunity. We can see, more quickly and easily, the kinds of objects that could be part of adoption history and exist someday in an actual archive. This can serve as a current learning resource while also helping to define the resources needed to properly collect and preserve adoption history.

A New History of Adoption

The History Lab is part of a much larger initiative: creating a new history of adoption, one that is told through a social justice lens. This history will be anchored in the experiences of those who are negatively impacted by adoption, include content that has been omitted from the dominant historical narrative, and reveal how adoption is linked with other social systems, beliefs and movements. All forms of U.S. adoption will be addressed: domestic (private and public), Native American and intercountry. This is a highly collaborative project, led by people who are directly impacted by adoption and involving key stakeholders and the broad public in its ongoing development. Because this work is rooted online, it will become a living and interactive history. It will also serve as a resource for other Adoption Museum Project work, such as pop-up exhibitions, installations, and public programming.

It will take a long time to fully realize this bold vision. We are beginning with an invitation: History Lab. In this online space, the public can engage with us and help shape the work. As we learn and raise money, we will create other offerings such as a Timeline.

A Social Justice Lens

Social justice practices will guide the process of constructing this history and the content that is produced by it. Some of those practices include: amplifying marginalized voices and stories, involving people who have been negatively impacted by adoption to help create the work, naming root issues, revealing how adoption relates to individuals and other social systems, designing for accessibility and being aware of our privilege and bias.

Who Is Involved

The Adoption Museum Project (AMP) conceived of this project and manages its development in close collaboration with a Vision and Strategy Group. AMP is an independent organization with nonprofit status, fiscally sponsored by Intersection for the Arts. The history work is solely funded by AMP through individual contributions and foundation grants.

The Vision and Strategy Group is composed of eight people who are separate from Adoption Museum Project’s staff. They bring their expertise as adopted people and first/birth parents, and many other identities, experiences and skills. Read their bios.

Project Principles

Seven principles create the foundation for this work: perspective, social justice, transparency, collaboration, storytelling, intentional growth and integrity. Read about each value. These principles were created collaboratively through extended reflection and conversation between Adoption Museum Project staff, Vision and Strategy Group and stakeholders. Together, these seven ideas guide the Vision and Strategy Group’s decision making.

Contact Us

Sound interesting? We would love to hear from you. Send a note with your questions or comments to Suzi Martinez Carter, History Fellow, at suzi@adoptionmuseumproject.org.