America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far is a crowd-pleasing exhibit now running at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. More than 350,000 people have visited the exhibit so far and it’s so popular, that the run has been extended through the end of the year with plans for a nationwide tour in 2018.
“I’ve been here 26 years and I can’t remember another exhibit that had a sustained heavy attendance over a period of a year like this one has,” says Andrew S. Ackerman, the museum’s executive director. “It’s been a surprise blockbuster for us.”
Divided into five sections, the exhibit takes young people on a journey through Muslim cultures in more than 50 countries, from ancient history to the present. Much of the exhibit is interactive, which the New York Times says gives “children a fun and memorable way to experience these lifestyles.” For example, in a section devoted to the American Muslim home – Muslims talk about their own personal stories and explain the Quran, hijab, and tasbih (prayer beads).
“People really want to dig in and get a better understanding from a trusted source about Muslim cultures,” says Mr. Ackerman. “We want young children to be exposed to as much diversity as possible to better understand other people and themselves, and there’s no question that reduces prejudice, violence and misunderstandings.”
Funding for the exhibit has come from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. “We focus on projects that increase understanding and relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the U.S.,” says Zeyba Rahman, senior program officer at the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art.
The exhibit runs until December 31, 2017.