By: MARY SAROKI ROMAYA
Imagine stepping into an area where you could do all of the following: see what Imagine stepping into an area where you could do all of the following: see what the town center of ancient Babylon was like; touch a replica of the stele on which Hammurabi’s Code of Laws was etched; walk into a sacred space and hear Aramaic, the language spoken by Christ; be transported to Telkeppe, or other surrounding villages, in the early 20th century to witness what life was like for people living in the Nineveh Plain; journey to America and view the New York skyline as early pioneers would have seen it from Ellis Island; feel the pride as you stand inside a grocery store in the 1930s as a Chaldean entrepreneur establishes his place in the Detroit business community; learn what Chaldeans are doing today as they expand their professional horizons. How is all of this possible? Welcome to the Chaldean Cultural Center (CCC).
A state-of-the-art Chaldean Cultural Center Museum was designed by a New York architectural firm that specializes in museum work. The designers collaborated with community members to create a museum covering over 5000 years of Chaldean history. The CCC is located in the eastern end of the Shenandoah Country Club in West Bloomfield, MI. There are 5 galleries for visitors to weave through. The Galleries are: Chaldeans in the Ancient World, Faith & Church, Village Life, Journey to America, and Chaldeans Today. Each area houses artifacts, media, sculpture, text panels, etc. to tell the Chaldean story and to support that gallery’s theme.
In the Gallery highlighting ancient Mesopotamia, artifacts include cylinder seals used as ownership and accounting tools. An authentic replica of the original stele of Hammurabi (Code of Laws) was purchased from the Louvre for placement in this Gallery. Among other items there are clay tablets and sculptures of historical figures. The “Faith & Church” Gallery highlights the Aramaic language used in religious ceremonies such as the Chaldean Mass as well as in baptisms and wedding rituals. Liturgical manuscripts along with vestments and other Church adornments are displayed. As one moves into the “Village Life” Gallery, farming tools, cooking utensils, and clothing can be viewed. Religious practices, village customs, and dress are used to show how the Chaldeans maintained their identity as a Christian minority within a larger Islamic culture. The “Journey to America” Gallery features passports, photos, steamer trunks, tickets from passenger liners and other items used as individuals and families migrated from the villages and cities of Iraq to come to America. The story as to how and why the Chaldeans came to settle in Detroit is told. Part of this exhibit features an early Chaldean-owned grocery store from the 1930s. The last Gallery named “Chaldeans Today” focuses on the strength yet diversity of contemporary Chaldeans. Through the use of graphics (maps), this Gallery also displays where Chaldeans today are located throughout the world, the Chaldean Diaspora. All of the galleries immerse the visitor in the totality of the Chaldean experience.
The Chaldean Cultural Center Museum has many media forms including videos, interactives, life-size figures, text panels, and audio displays. A media production company based in New York that has done work for the Disney Corporation and produced TV documentaries on the Titanic developed the media presentations. This company worked closely with the Center’s design team and with community members.
The Chaldean Cultural Center is a testament to our heritage. It honors the early pioneers who had the strength and adventure to come to a new world. The Center will let our children, grandchildren, and future generations know their legacy and instill pride in being Chaldean. It will also serve as a means to tell our unique history to the larger, non-Chaldean community. We are an ancient people going back over 5000 years yet we are still a thriving, growing community.
The CCC has built a donor wall which is located on the outer wall of the CCC Museum. Community members and other individuals can purchase a marble stone and have a person or family name engraved on the plaque. This is a wonderful opportunity to support the living legacy that the Cultural Center embodies. There are different levels of contributions. Corporate sponsorships are also available.
The Chaldean Cultural Center opened in May, 2017. For further information, you can call the Center at (248) 681-5050.
The Center paints a portrait of a people, exploring the history that shaped us, the faith that sustains us, and the lives we lead today. At its heart is an exhibition that takes visitors from the court of Nebuchadnezzar to an immigrant grocery store in Detroit and beyond. Multimedia presentations, sophisticated hands-on activities, artifacts both ancient and modern, and evocative environments will tell a distinctive, engaging, and powerful story.