“Preparing for the Oath: U.S. History and Civics for Citizenship,” a new website designed to help immigrants study for the civics portion of the naturalization test was unveiled at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as part of today’s naturalization ceremony. The partnership between the museum and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services uses curators and collections to answer the 100-question citizenship test, and provide a more textured sense of American history and an accessible study guide, according to officials.
The naturalization test, administered orally in USCIS offices around the country, underwent a redesign in 2009. Questions were standardized and aspiring citizens were given study materials. The following year, as part of a congressional appropriation for immigrant outreach and education, USCIS began looking for ways to reach more potential citizens —8.1 million permanent residents are eligible for citizenship but have not yet applied--and bring historical artifacts to life, says Nathan Stiefel from the Office of Citizenship.
Magdalena Mieri of the National Museum of American History was part of a team that broke the questions up into 15 thematic groupings featuring a mosaic of images. “We made it very user friendly,” says Mieri. “The test is oral and so we narrated and transcribed, constantly reinforcing the English and vocabulary.” Themes included government basics, symbols and holidays, voting responsibilities, and congress and the presidency. Each question features a vignette and museum object. A narration about Native American tribes features a pair of 1870 moccasins. A section about rights features photos of abolitionsists and the Civil Rights movement.
Today’s cermony also featured a keynote address by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who was born in Czechoslavakia, immigrated with her family to the U.S. shortly after World War II and became an American citizen in college. Albright donated objects to the museum including the outfit she wore for the Dec. 5, 1996, public announcement of her nomination to be the first female Secretary of State, the green leather briefcase she used as Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State, and a number of her signature lapel pins.