Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Asian Canadian Archives (Re)Visited

Here is a "digital story" video created by a student at UBC as part of an undergraduate film studies course.   In my work as a librarian, I've had chances to work with community organizations on cultural projects.  The Chinese Canadian Stories is one case where I have collaborated with small organizations across Canada in recovering lost histories about the Headtax and discrimination.  Vivian Wong, Tom Ikeda, Ellen-Rae Cachola, and Florante Peter Ibanez authored a very interesting  piece in "Archives (Re)Imagined Elsewhere" in Through the Archival Looking Glass.

Asian American community-based archives are more than repository for materials for the communities they serve; rather, are spaces where collective memories are created and collective histories represented. In this context, previously marginalized and neglected groups can reclaim their experiences. National records show Asian Americans viewed from the outside as undesirable immigrant-aliens. Archives as community-based organizations in Asian American communities are formed apart from official repositories for Asian Americans to represent and imagine themselves differently.

Community institutions thus challenge the "traditional notions" of archives which often serves as a custodial function primarily for records of bureaucratic organizations such as governments. On the other hand, Asian American archival organizations exist in local communities, separate from institution-based archives, as spaces for Asian Americans to represent themselves, their histories, cultures, identities, and experiences as they see themselves in America.

In the 1960's, Asian American groups began forming responses to their exclusion from mainstream society which ultimately enabled and empowered them to create their own documentation of their experiences within these communities.   The last twenty years has seen an increased insistence and urgency to push the boundaries archival theories, practices, and education in ways that consider alternate approaches to knowing and understanding archives, records, and recordkeeping.

Some of the projects that are worth noting in the Canadian context include the following:

  • The Pacific Canada Heritage Centre - Museum of Migration [Link]
  • Vancouver Asian Heritage Month's explorASIAN Festival [Link]
  • Chinese Canadian Historical Society of British Columbia [Link]
  • Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies (ACAM) program [Link]

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