FACT CHECK: Does This Photo Show A Museum Exhibit In Italy Featuring Bags Of Immigrants Who Died At Sea?

Trevor Schakohl | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook allegedly shows an exhibit at a museum on Italy’s Lampedusa island featuring bags owned by immigrants who perished at sea.

Verdict: False

The photo actually shows possessions of migrants who tried to cross the U.S.-Mexico border that were displayed in the U.S.

Fact Check:

The International Organization of Migration’s Missing Migrants Project reports that over 17,000 migrants have died or disappeared in the central Mediterranean Sea since 2014. From January to the end of November, some 64,400 illegal border crossings into the European Union (E.U.) via the Central Mediterranean route were detected by authorities, according to a press release from Frontex, the E.U. border and coast guard agency.

In the photo visible in the Facebook post, backpacks and pieces of luggage can be seen covering the wall of a room while people stand nearby. The caption alleges they are the “bags of immigrants who died at sea, which were collected and placed in an Italian museum on the island of Lampedusa, and written on it, ‘Every bag has a story.'” (RELATED: Did The French Intend For The Statue Of Liberty To Symbolize Immigration?)

However, the photo actually shows an exhibition that, according to the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities website, includes “hundreds of backpacks left behind by migrants crossing the Arizona desert as well as numerous pieces of clothing and ephemera.” Other things included in the exhibition were “video images” taken along the U.S.-Mexico border and clips of audio interviews with migrants, the University of Michigan website explains.

The installation, titled “State of Exception,” was created by anthropologist Jason De León and artists Richard Barnes and Amanda Krugliak. Media outlets such as the Detroit Free Press and The New York Times also reported that the bags in “State of Exception” came from migrants trying to cross the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico. It was displayed in Michigan in 2015 and in New York in 2017, according to media reports.

While the photo doesn’t show an installation at a museum in Lampedusa, a performance and exhibition venue called PortoM has displayed various items belonging to migrants that were found near Lampedusa, according to the venue’s website. PortoM has posted photos showing some of the items on Facebook.

Trevor Schakohl

Fact Check Reporter
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