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February 11, 2014

Young Historians, Living Histories- Today’s Stop: Oklahoma City, OK!

Special thanks to Paula Lee, Smithsonian Affiliations intern, for this guest post. This is the first of a five-part blog series she is writing as part of the Young Historians, Living Histories (YHLH) collaboration with the Asian Pacific American Center and our Affiliate network. 

Asian Pacific American youth representing the Young Historians, Living HIstory after completing a workshop

Asian Pacific American youth representing the Young Historians, Living History after completing a workshop

Early this August, I had an extraordinary opportunity to join Smithsonian Affiliations as an intern directly assisting with the Young Historians, Living Histories grant. After a few weeks of researching the project, I spoke with Leah Craig, Curator of Education at the Oklahoma History Center, an Affiliate in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma History Center is one of nine Affiliate museums selected to receive the YHLH grant funded by the Smithsonian’s Youth Access Grant program. Additional Affiliates include Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (Seattle, WA), Institute of Texan Cultures (San Antonio, TX), Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, OH), Pacific Aviation Museum (Honolulu, HI), Sonoma County Museum (Santa Rosa, CA), Greensboro Historical Museum (Greensboro, NC), Riverside Metropolitan Museum (Riverside, CA), and Historic Arkansas Museum (Little Rock, AR).

This program is an educational initiative designed to engage underserved youth in Asian Pacific American communities by incorporating the use of digital media to produce oral histories. Being an Asian American myself, I was particularly thrilled at the chance to be involved in a project that hit so close to home. The Affiliates have collaborated with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC) and the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) to provide essential curriculum guidelines that will be used to train educators to implement youth workshops. Participating Affiliates have recruited Asian Pacific American students to attend workshops at the museums. Middle and high school students will learn a variety of 21st-century skills, methods of community outreach, and digital storytelling to explore, contextualize, and deepen their understanding of Asian Pacific American history and culture.

Director Leah Craig leading one of many workshops on Asian American history

Curator Leah Craig leading one of many workshops on Asian American history

While the Affiliates were busy recruiting students, Craig had already begun to lead a team of 20 gifted and talented students from Norman High School through active learning workshops. The workshops covered essential editing, filming, interviewing and a lesson in Asian Pacific American history with the help of teachers Margaret Wadleigh, LaRadius Allen, and Moving Image Archivist Corey Ayers. Students that participated in the workshop came from diverse cultural backgrounds and were placed in groups that encouraged them to share their stories and ideas as they began their transformation into historians seeking stories within the Asian Pacific American community.  At only 1.9 percent, Oklahoma’s Asian American population isn’t large but according to the U.S. Census Bureau it includes a variety of Chinese, Korean, Pilipino, Burmese, and Hmong communities with significant Vietnamese and growing Indian communities. The program has enticed the young historians to become curious and research the immigration stories that attracted Asian Americans’ very first settlement into Oklahoma such as the Land Run in 1889.

Shoulder to Shoulder-- Oklahoman students eager to learn the film making processes of oral histries in a workshop led by Moving Image Archivist, Corey Ayers

Shoulder to Shoulder– Oklahoman students eager to learn the film making processes of oral histries in a workshop led by Moving Image Archivist, Corey Ayers

Craig boasts that “by conducting the oral histories students are helping us collect the history of our community from people with whom we may not have any other way to collect their stories.” Students were challenged to reveal the hidden struggles and accomplishments that Asian Pacific Americans in their own families/personal network had endured while en route, discovering a part of them that was never truly appreciated. Wadleigh, one of the two mentoring teachers, observed that the oral history element of this project engaged the students in a way that activated their “emotional” skills, skills that helped them discover powerful stories that couldn’t be told through any textbook.   Look forward to future posts under the YHLH Series as we begin to unravel the unique stories hidden across the nation “oh the places we’ll go” when we’re looking!

June 29, 2010

affiliates at the folklife festival

In addition to Mexico and Asian Pacific Americans, this year’s Folklife Festival features ‘Smithsonian Inside Out’ – a section devoted to explaining the inner workings of the Institution.  Tents are dedicated to work in our strategic  grand challenges, how we make exhibits and tend our grounds, our research activities around the globe, and more.

Affiliates are playing an important role in demonstrating to Festival visitors how the Smithsonian reaches audiences well beyond Washington.  The Littleton Historical Museum in Colorado and the Historic Arkansas Museum are featured on giant festival maps about the Smithsonian’s work outside D.C.  Icons for Affiliates that show the breadth of the network are highlighted as well.

The B & O Railroad Museum‘s executive director Courtney Wilson will be on the Festival’s discussion stage on July 1 with Bill Withuhn, curator emeritus at the National Museum of American History.  They’ll be discussing our decade of collaboration, and the numerous Smithsonian artifacts on view in Baltimore as a result of our relationship.

On July 3, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture will host a table at the Festival to demonstrate the fruits of their affiliation, such as hosting several major SITES exhibitions, artifact loans from the new National Museum of African American History, and sharing expertise with a range of Smithsonian scholars.

Throughout the Festival, Affiliations staff have been engaged in explaining outreach efforts to visitors.  National Outreach Manager Alma Douglas took to the discussion stage on June 27 to describe the Affiliations Program.  Other staff members are manning the “Ask the Smithsonian” tent, finding out about visitors’ hometowns and encouraging them to visit their local Affiliates.  It’s great to be able to tell Festival visitors from across the country about our extended family of Affiliates, and the Smithsonian experience they can have, even  in their own backyards.

 

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