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Asian Pacific American History Resources in the Smithsonian Learning Lab

Asian Pacific American History Resources in the Smithsonian Learning Lab

by: Andrea Kim Neighbors, Education Specialist, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC)—one of the Smithsonian’s museums without walls—is now 21 years old. At our Center, you wouldn’t find brick-and-mortar exhibitions, a collection, or tour offerings. Instead, you would meet our small team of 10 working to bring community-driven and collaboratively curated spaces alive across the United States. APAC has recently created large-scale, 2- and 3-day events in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Honolulu called Culture Labs—APAC’s unconventional museum model that focuses on storytelling through immersive art, performances, poetry, and active dialogue. We take our mission to heart: We are a migratory museum that brings Asian Pacific American history, art and culture to you through innovative museum experiences online and throughout the United States. 

The Center is just getting started in creating helpful, hands-on, civically engaged activities and Learning Lab collections for teachers and students focused on Asian Pacific American history, art, and culture, so  stay in touch with APAC through our website and social media to see what’s new. In the meantime, here are two video resources available in the Learning Lab, and one collection that shows the resource in action.

Frank Chi’s film, Letters from Camp, was shown at APAC’s first Culture Lab, “Crosslines: A Culture Lab on Intersectionality” in Washington, D.C.

This film features letters that young Japanese Americans in World War II incarceration camps sent to Clara Breed, a librarian in San Diego. Excerpts from the letters are read by contemporary Muslim American youth standing beside Japanese American camp survivors. The survivors remain silent as the young people read stories that parallel their own hopes and fears during the current era of anti-Muslim sentiment. The letters reveal connections between American’s past and present that alert us to the threat of the past repeating itself. To learn more about works from Crosslines that addressed experiences of Muslims in America, please view the online exhibition.

Frank Chi’s second film, independent of a Culture Lab, was sponsored by APAC and is titled, America Is in the Heart, based Carlos Bulosan’s novel  of the same name. More than 45 million immigrants have become Americans since 1943, when Bulosan’s book was published. It captured his life as a Filipino American then, but his words still resonate with the greater immigrant experience today. Learn more about the creation of this film.

The following collection focuses on Asian Pacific American authors, and includes guidance on how the video America Is in the Heart can be used in discussions about representation in American storytelling.

Image: America Is In The Heart (read by Junot Díaz, Hasan Minhaj & Ivy Quicho) (video still)
"America is in the Heart" is a novel written by Carlos Bulosan in the 1940's to capture his Filipino American experience, but its words still resonate with the greater immigrant experience today. This film, created by Frank Chi and presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, features a passage read by comedian Hasan Minhaj, community organizer Ivy Quicho, and writer Junot Díaz – and features footage from throughout the United States of some of the 45 million immigrants who have become Americans since the publishing of the book in 1946.
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program