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Our Spring Exhibit: A SEAA of Memories

The Libraries’ spring exhibit, “A SEAA of Memories: Our Changing Southeast Asian American Communities,” celebrates the completion of two major grant projects. The unique collections of our Southeast Asian Archive are now fully available for research, and a new web resource providing access to selected materials will debut this summer.

The Southeast Asian Archive was established in 1987 to document the experiences of refugees and immigrants from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam who resettled in the United States after the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The Archive’s unique scope and scholarly significance were nationally recognized when the California State Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded grants to extend access to these irreplaceable materials.

From the beginning, donors have played an important role in the growth of the Archive through generous gifts of materials. In recognition of this, A SEAA of Memories highlights nine collections and their donors. Items on exhibit reveal many aspects of the refugee experience, including humanitarian efforts in Asian camps, cultural activities in the San Francisco Bay Area, household items that were abandoned on arrival in the U.S., and advocacy efforts on behalf of Southeast Asian American communities.

For example, the Project Ngoc Collection was created and donated by a UCI student group to advocate for Vietnamese refugees who remained in camps in Hong Kong long after the end of the War. The Project publicized the refugees’ plight, sent student volunteers to work in the camps, and advocated for humanitarian reforms. The students also collected and exhibited paintings and drawings created by refugee artists in the camps, several of which appear in the exhibit. Project Ngoc disbanded in 1997 after the camps were closed.

Most of the items on exhibit, and many others from the Archive, have been digitized and will be available this summer through a UCI Libraries website titled SEAAdoc: Documenting the Southeast Asian American Experience. Associate Professor Linda Vo of Asian American Studies has served as faculty advisor for the NEH grant and as a key contributor to SEAAdoc, leading a national board of scholars who have helped shape the site’s content. Like the Archive itself, SEAAdoc documents both the diaspora and the ethnic communities that have developed throughout the nation. Narrative essays are complemented by a searchable body of digitized images and texts. The site is intended for use by K-14 students and educators, scholars, and the general public for research and educational purposes.

A SEAA of Memories was curated by Southeast Asian Archive Librarian Anne Frank, assisted by NEH Project Archivist Julia Stringfellow.

For more information, please contact Anne Frank, Southeast Asian Archive Librarian (afrank@uci.edu or x44968).

 

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