Dreams of Freedom: Boston’s Immigrant Experience

With a history of serving residents and visitors alike, Skywalk Observatory is celebrating the Grand Re-Opening of the fully re-imagined and revitalized immigration exhibition, Dreams of Freedom: Boston’s Immigrant Experience. Located on the 50th floor of The Prudential Tower, the Skywalk is New England’s tallest observatory and Boston’s ONLY sky-high vantage point.


A glance at the headlines shows the debate over immigration is as timely a topic today as it was hundreds of years ago. Dreams of Freedom serves as a virtual passport through time, offering interactive multimedia exhibits that bring to life the unified experience of the thousands of immigrants who have made Boston their home for more than 400 years. The city’s only educational experience dedicated to Boston’s rich history of immigration, the exhibits have been completely re-imagined and refurbished under the direction of Dr. Westy A. Egmont, Exhibit Curator. Dr. Egmont is Associate Professor, Boston College School of Social Work and Director of the BCSSW Immigrant Integration Lab.


As noted at the entrance to the exhibition area: “Boston, ‘the city on the hill,’ was founded by people who sought a new life, free of the inequities and disappointments of the old world. The Puritan settlers hoped to create a city that would be a beacon to the world, and it has been. For centuries, immigrants have traveled from all over the world to build new lives. They journeyed far, built communities, became citizens and left their mark on Boston.” Dreams of Freedom is both their story and everyone’s story. Ultimately, this is a story of commonality.


As a melting pot of the world’s communities, Boston has a tradition of inclusion and is home to someone from virtually every country on the planet. The city’s culture, neighborhoods and history have all been shaped and impacted by immigrants — Irish, Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Dominican, Polish, Haitian, Nigerian, Turkish, Korean, Indian and more.


Touring the exhibits, guests will experience: the stark reality of leaving family behind to travel to a distant land with a bare minimum of possessions; family portraits come to life in a virtual dialogue debating the dreams and frustrations of arriving in a new homeland; the requirements and challenges of achieving American citizenship; the plight of the world’s refugees; a celebration of immigrant scholars, activists, artists, lawmakers, builders, athletes and inventors who have called Boston home and impacted the world; and images of today’s new Bostonians — adults and children — who have come from around the globe to build a better life and who will help shape our tomorrow.


Also displayed throughout the exhibit areas are a host of significant quotations relating to immigration from such leaders as Thomas Paine and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Jimmy Carter and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who also appears in Dreams of Freedom: The Boston Story video, narrated by Jimmy Tingle and shown in the Skywalk Theater.


“I am deeply excited about Dreams of Freedom: Boston’s Immigrant Experience,” said Mayor Walsh. “Immigrants are influential, historically and presently, to our city, which I know firsthand as the son of immigrant parents. This exhibit is crucial in sharing and presenting the stories of numerous immigrant movements in Boston, and how their search for identity and place in their adopted home helped to shape and build our city.”


Dr. Egmont agreed, saying, “From the Puritans aboard the Arabella to today’s arrivals at Logan, Boston has welcomed the world and this exciting varied flow of people has become ever richer in diversity and human endeavor. Boston is a thriving center of health care, education, science, industry and progressive initiatives and this grows from, not despite, its role as an immigrant city. Dreams of Freedom is a story, the story of our city, told as a family tells its story about our background, our struggles, our home.”


Raphael Oliver, General Manager of Skywalk Observatory and Top of the Hub added, “Boston is truly a global city. We have spent the past year working closely with Dr. Egmont to renovate, update and revitalize Dreams of Freedom to reflect Boston’s ongoing story of immigration. The Skywalk, which has been home to the exhibition for the past ten years, has consistently ranked as one of Boston’s most visited tourism sites since opening. The bright, new elements of Dreams of Freedom make the Skywalk an essential destination for visitors and residents alike, now more than ever.”


The Skywalk is located on the 50th Floor of The Prudential Tower. Hours are 10 A.M. to 10 P.M. daily (November 4 – March 8: 10 A.M. to 8 P.M.). All of the Skywalk’s displays and exhibits, (Dreams of Freedom in addition to existing exhibits), are included in one admission fee — $17.00 for Adults, $12.00 for Children 6th grade and under; $14.00 for Seniors (62 and above); $13.00 for University students with ID. Active military personnel and those with dependent cards are always given free admission. Massachusetts Teacher Association members receive free admission with valid MTA card. For more information, visit http://skywalkboston.com


PHOTO CREDIT: Experience Portraits of Immigrants at Dreams of Freedom at the Skywalk Observatory in Boston. Photo credit: Joel Benjamin