What We Carried

At the center of an adoptee’s narrative is the question of legitimacy. Museums offer legitimacy to everyday objects through institutional practices and status. The objects and interpretive text in this exhibition have been contributed by adult adoptees. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Zooey Arnold-Conner

Naturalization Ceremony Dress

Maker Unknown
Circa 1985
Length: 18.5” / Bust: 11’’ / Hip: 17’’

On June 12, 1985, the two year old transracial and transnational adoptee from Yeosu, South Korea wore this dress to her judicial Oath of Allegiance ceremony in Albany, New York.  Per the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Naturalization is the process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a foreign citizen or national after he or she fulfills the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

As anti-immigration culture has been cultivated by the current US administration, adoptees are forced to evaluate their immigrant identity, legal security, and sense of valid belonging.


PHOTO CREDIT: Zooey Arnold-Conner

Certification of Birth or, Her Bona Fides

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1964-65
Paper, ink
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/8 in.

This document, bearing the crest and seal of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, records the birth and name of a female infant (“Child”). Its secondary function is to pronounce the other two named individuals the Child’s “Father” and “Mother.”

It is notable that following the birth, seven days passed before the filing of the document and another year before its issuance. Parenthood began three months following the birth, nine months before the issuance. The meaning of these time spans is undetermined.

Besides the sex of the Child and the county in which she was born, the document contains no details about the birth. These elisions, coupled with the authoritative nature of the declaration of parenthood, are said to have contributed to the Child’s conviction, which she is known to have held dear, that she did not come into existence until the day she was adopted.

Gift of the Department of Health, Vital Statistics, Harrisburg, PA.


PHOTO CREDIT: Zooey Arnold-Conner

Uncomfortable Comfort

Kelly and her mother
April 27, 1970 - present
Provenance Unknown.  Shows signs of touch.  Human traces of memory in the fabric.  

As a child I was never separated from my blanket.  It was the one thing (I believed) given to me by my birth parents.  At age five, my adopted parents decided I was too old to have a blanket.  They disposed of it in the burn barrel at my grandparent's farm.  The distress of the loss caused physical illness.  A new blanket was made with the same silk edges.  For the next almost 50 years I was never without a piece of silk.  Early on I tried to hide the need (weakness), that I now fully embrace.  When my children are sick, I rub their backs with it.  A past love asked me to rub a piece of silk for a week to "season it" for him. A board member gave me a beautiful silk cloth from his travels.  

Uncomfortable Comfort combines three pieces of silk that represent human love and acceptance - sometimes well worn and imperfect, and others times smooth and seemingly flawless.  Always impossible to be without.  


PHOTO CREDIT: Zooey Arnold-Conner

Ben's Box

Box prepared by and gifted by Besty and Gary Lundberg, circa 1995
Objects archived by Benjamin Lundberg Torres Sánchez,1995-2015

Metal cash box, vinyl letters, red electrical tap, plastic bags, permanent ink, curated objects
11" x 7.5” x 3” 

Provenance: United States of America
Plano, Texas (1995-2006)
Manhattan, New York City, NY (2006-2010)
Brooklyn, New York City, NY (2010-2011)
Brooklyn, New York City, NY [In the procession of Brooklyn Haus] (2011-2015) 
Providence, Rhode Island (2015 - ) 

This box was gifted to Benjamin Lundberg Torres Sánchez, a transnational adoptee born in Bogotá, Colombia, as a Christmas present by his parents, Betsy and Gary Lundberg, in the United States circa 1995. Growing up in a home where closed doors represented secrecy and nefarious activity, and was therefore discouraged, Ben’s Box, because one of the only private or interior spaces available to Lundberg Torres Sánchez during his childhood. 

Beginning with selections of precious, individual souvenirs, representing a relationship solely between object and archivist, Lundberg Torres Sánchez’ archival practice later transitioned to focus on assembling collections of written correspondences and other objects that often represented a relationship between the archivist, the objects, and one other significant person. These collections, formerly a loose strata within the box, were later bundled and assigned a plastic zip-lock bag, most often corresponding with an individual person (c. 2006.)

Ben’s Box is now filled beyond capacity and has stopped receiving additional souvenirs or collections. 


Rhode Island State C

Special thanks to the RISD Museum. 


This activity is made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, through an appropriation by the Rhode Island General Assembly and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.