The New York City neighborhood of Inwood is located at Northern tip of Manhattan, and is home to a vibrant Latinx community. At the top of a hill, along Broadway, sits the Dyckman Farmhouse– a reminder of the city’s rural past.
Built in 1784 by the successful Dutch real-estate family, the Dyckmans, the home was founded as a historic house museum in 1916. It currently operates as a nonprofit museum with the mission to educate its visitors on New York’s long and complex history. What makes the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum special is its goal to further target local Latinx neighbors through its one-of-a-kind programming.
“Our programming is for everybody,” says director of education Naiomy Rodriguez. The museum provides donation-based admission, making visits and educational programs accessible and affordable to single-income families in the area.
To reach the museum’s Latinx neighbors, the museum staff takes a grassroots approach. They partner with local businesses to sponsor its programs and events, and they also hand out bilingual fliers to residents. Rodriguez makes it a priority to draft museum signage and newsletters in Spanish and English to inform the Latinx residents about the museum’s free programs, including its Math and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) tutoring sessions for K-12 students.
Educating visitors on America’s diverse and colorful history is what Dyckman prides itself in. With American history largely focusing on men and women of white European descent, Rodriguez and her colleagues aim to expand the narrative by informing visitors about the contributions of the Black, Latinx, and indigenous people of America.
“I don’t want kids to think that history is focused on a certain timeline,” says Rodriguez. “I want there to be a more inclusive talk about the Native Americans and to really talk about colonization. History has a habit of romanticizing certain periods. By telling [students] what the facts are, they can come to their own conclusions.”
Dyckman recently partnered with the New York Board of Education and local high school City College Academy of the Art to provide two hours of free weekly history tutoring to its students. The young attendees, 98 percent of whom are of minority descent, are able to learn the stories more closely linked to their heritage, from the that of the Lenape, the native tribe that originally lived in the Inwood area, to the story of Black-Portuguese Santo-Domingan businessman Juan (Jan) Rodriguez, one of the earliest non-native settlers in Manhattan and Inwood.
Rodriguez feels that by sharing this knowledge, Black and Latinx students are able to feel a sense of validation as a part of American and New York history, especially in the face of the ongoing gentrification happening in their neighborhood.
As a native of the adjacent Washington Heights neighborhood, Rodriguez uses her upbringing as inspiration to organize events focused on the wellness of the local Latinx community. Meditation workshops, art classes and festivals have not only transformed Dyckman into a central community center, but they have also helped alleviate the tension between the incoming upper-middle class families and the local Latinx residents.
Most recently, Rodriguez coordinated an event focused on art and health with New York and Dominican artist Ronald Sterling. Entitled “Cancer Reflected in Wood,” participants were able to view Sterling’s sculptures to commemorate victims of cancer, all while learning about cancer prevention and healthy habits for diet and exercise.
It closed with a Native American drum circle to honor the indigenous people of Inwood. The event was a great success, with the number of attendees reaching nearly two-hundred people, seventy percent of whom were local Latinxs.
The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum continues to develop new programs to empower its local community. The staff recognizes the vital role of local residents in their institution and consistently engages the community through surveys, questionnaires and simple street conversations. To fund the accessible museum programming, Rodriguez and her colleagues tirelessly apply for grants and sponsorships on a daily basis. “If I have to work past 6:30pm, that’s what I’ll do,” says Rodriguez. “They [the public] benefit us. They tell us what we should do. At the end of the day, we are serving the public. Without them we don’t have a purpose.”
To learn more about The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum and to donate to the museum please visit http://dyckmanfarmhouse.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.