History Initiative

Adoption history through the lens of social justice.


The Adoption Museum Project is organizing a new history of adoption, one that is told through a lens of social justice. This history will:

  • Address all forms of U.S. adoption: domestic (private and public), Native American and intercountry.
  • Center the experiences of people who are negatively impacted by adoption
  • Include content that has been omitted from the dominant historical narrative
  • Draw from the expertise of both academic and citizen scholars, as well as the lived experience of people impacted by adoption
  • Reveal how adoption is linked with other social systems, beliefs and movements.
  • Be led by people who are directly impacted by adoption


What exactly is a new history of adoption? What form does it take? Is it something you read, listen to, or experience in some other way? That’s one of the questions at the heart of this ambitious project. We have only begun to imagine some of the possibilities for what form this new history can take: an interactive timeline, an encyclopedia, a collection of objects that illustrate historical moments, curriculum for child welfare professionals, exhibitions. Perhaps it will be many of these things. What can you imagine?

Whatever forms it takes, the History Initiative will be shaped by the practices of history, storytelling, and social justice which are all rapidly evolving. It must also consider how to incorporate technology, both the online and offline kind, for greatest impact. We will make these decisions collaboratively, with people who choose to engage with this work.


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


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.


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.


The History Initiative began in May 2017, when the first members of the Vision and Strategy Group met. Meeting monthly and working online, this extraordinary group has been building the History Initiative’s idea infrastructure. Examples of their work include: defining Project Principles, determining how to create a diverse community of collaborators, grappling with foundational questions such as how power and oppression impact the work, and supporting the development of the History Initiative’s first prototype.

In September 2017, Suzi Martinez Carter joined us as History Fellow. She managed the prototype design of the History Initiative’s first offering: History Lab. We imagined History Lab to be an online space where the public can contribute objects that have historical significance for adoption, and participate in shaping the broader work of the History Initiative. Anyone with interest and an Internet connection would be able to become a member of History Lab at no cost. With sufficient funding, and building on Suzi’s incredible work, we can develop History Lab and go live.


Sound interesting? Want to know more? We would love to hear from you. Send a note with your questions or comments to Laura Callen: laura@adoptionmuseumproject.org.

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