Fact Check: Photo of 'wall of backpacks' is from NY exhibit, not Italian museum

A photo of a wall of backpacks that reportedly belonged to refugees who died while illegally crossing over to Europe is being shared on social media. It is further being claimed that the image is from an Italian Museum on Lampedusa Island.

By Tejal Sinha  Published on  5 Jan 2022 4:05 AM GMT
Fact Check: Photo of wall of backpacks is from NY exhibit, not Italian museum

Hyderabad: A photo of a wall of backpacks that reportedly belonged to refugees who died while illegally crossing over to Europe is being shared on social media. It is further being claimed that the image is from an Italian Museum on Lampedusa Island.



The photo is widely being shared on Facebook.

Fact Check

The claim is misleading.

NewsMeter performed a Google reverse image search which led us to the University of Michigan website that had published a similar image.

According to the information on the website, the photo was from an exhibition created by artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak in collaboration with anthropologist De León. It included "an installation of hundreds of backpacks left behind by migrants crossing the Arizona desert as well as numerous pieces of clothing and ephemera, and video images created by Richard Barnes on location along the Mexico-United States border". The installation also included "excerpts of original recordings of audio interviews with migrants".

A similar image was also published by Al Dia News on 23 March 2017.

According to the report, "A wall of backpacks abandoned by dozens of migrants who crossed the Sonoran Desert trying to reach the United States is on display - and is still being added to - as an exhibit in New York in answer to the immigration policy of President Donald Trump. Each backpack represents a person who crossed into the US, and although most of them made it, some could have died, photographer Richard Barnes, one of the creators of the State of Exception exhibit at the Parsons School of Design after being on tour for five years, told EFE. Along with the backpacks, other items are being added to the exhibit to continue developing the "footprint" of undocumented migrants, including torn clothing, testimonials and snapshots taken by the migrants themselves on their dangerous trek full of fear and uncertainty, but with the hope of a better life at the end of the road."

Meanwhile, a report by AP News from 11 February 2017 read, "A Manhattan gallery is displaying a wall of 700 backpacks and belongings of migrants who illegally crossed the US border. Some of them died in the Arizona desert."

On searching for incidents in Italy, we found a report by Info Migrants from 14 August 2019. "The Italian island of Lampedusa has been an arrival point for migrants for decades, given that it's closer to Africa than to Europe. A museum on the island pays tribute to these people, who risk their lives in search of safety and better opportunities," it read.

It is therefore evident that the claim made through the viral post is misleading. A 2017 image of a 'wall of backpacks' from an exhibition in New York is falsely being shared as that of an Italian museum. The backpacks were abandoned by migrants who crossed the Sonoran desert while trying to reach the United States.

While it is true that an Italian museum exhibits the belongings of migrants to document their tragic past, the viral image, however, is not linked to the museum.

Claim Review:Photo of ‘wall of backpacks’ in an Italian museum shows backpacks of immigrants who died at sea while trying to cross over to Europe.
Claimed By:Social Media Users
Claim Reviewed By:Newsmeter
Claim Source:Social Media
Claim Fact Check:Misleading
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