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March 6, 2014

Young Historians, Living Histories- Today’s Stop: Cleveland, OH!

Special thanks to Paula Lee, Smithsonian Affiliations intern, for this guest post. This is the fourth 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.

Local Cleveland newspaper ad- how students were recruited!

Local Cleveland newspaper ad- how students were recruited!

In Cleveland, students began an early session of preliminary interviews because practice after-all makes perfect. Dr. John Grabowski, Senior Vice President of Research and Publications of Western Reserve Historical Center (Cleveland, OH), sought out partnership with local Asian Indian American community, the Asian Indian Heritage Project (AIHP).  WRHS and AIHP, having had a previous history of partnerships, rekindled their alliance and worked to produce an advertisement that was placed in two local newspapers, India International and The Lotus for recruits based off short essays. Six highly dedicated and intelligent youth from the Asian Indian community were selected to represent the Northeast Ohio population.

Read more about the students’ films at CAAM Fest here.

Interviews held inside the Western Reserve Historical Society Library utilizing the tall windows as natural lighting for filming

Interviews held inside the Western Reserve Historical Society Library utilizing the tall windows as natural lighting for filming

Students were paired and interviewed successful doctors, community leaders (founder of AIHP Mr. Paramijit Singh) and social workers gathering a riveting collection of stories in the duration of their hour-long interviews. The museum provided its Research Library to create a professional theme for the filming to take place, while interviewees dressed in traditional Indian clothing as a reminder of their culture in the midst of relocation and adaptation in America.  When they weren’t asking for help editing footage through Dr. Grabowski or Jane Mason, Vice President of Marketing and Communications, students would take the camcorders and complete the editing as home projects.  Each student dove into the project with such passion and enthusiasm, they even gathered at the museum on their own over Thanksgiving break to continue without pause!

In a follow up call with Marketing Assistant Alyssa Purvis, I was informed that that the AIHP held a banquet selling raffle tickets to raise funds for the next set of students eager to continue with the project having already received inquiries.

“The students are a huge driving force behind the continuation of this project; they keep meeting others within their community and wanting to preserve their stories.” Their efforts “have had a ripple effect, on their families and entire Indian community as a whole in Northeast Ohio.

Through all those involved in Young Historians, Living Histories, I amongst many others have had a chance to discover how proactive these youth are when it comes to using these community resources. It is amazing to see how well the youth are responding to this form of research and discovery.

As the Asian Indian Heritage Project mantra goes, we hope our accomplishments “Illuminate the Past, Light the Future”!

Dr. John Grabrowski Senior President of Marketing and Research and Jane Mason Vice President, with the 6 participating YHLH students

Dr. John Grabrowski Senior President of Marketing and Research and Jane Mason Vice President, with the 6 participating YHLH students

March 4, 2014

Young Historians, Living Histories- Today’s Stop: Honolulu, HI!

Special thanks to Paula Lee, Smithsonian Affiliations intern, for this guest post. This is the third 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.

pa.2As we travel west to hear from our Affiliates at Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor (Honolulu, HI) we take flight almost literally, with those who once navigated overseas when aerial travel was a rare and exciting introduction to history. Shauna Tonkin, Director of Education at the Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, connects us with Curtis Joe, immediate nephew of Chinese-American aviator and stunt pilot, Tom Gunn and Pan Am Japanese-American flight attendants, Mae Takahashi and Aileen Sodetani.

Tonkin partnered with Chris Facuri, Digital Media Teacher at Aliamanu Middle School, enabling the oral histories collected and edited throughout the school year to be incorporated into students’ curriculum. Participating students in the class took a field trip to visit the museum to meet Joe, Sodetani and Takahashi, where the entire group received a historical tour before sitting down for interviews. The two flight attendants live locally in Honolulu while Joe flew out from San Francisco to be a part of this project. All were very appreciative and realized the value of sharing the experiences that they’ve endured with younger generations. In response, the interactions with the pioneers made the experiences and stories come alive for the students studying them, activating their interests and courage to solicit knowledgeable questions.

Ford Island, where the museum is located is in the middle of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, HI. On December 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft led a surprise attack initiating World War II. This led to a hard time for both Americans and Asian Americans, because the following year over 150,000 Japanese were ordered into internment camps although 62% of them were American citizens.

“The program served to be education, dynamic and responsive due to the nature of its interactive learning environment” observed by cooperating teacher Chris Facuri. Sparking the curiosity and interests of the youth was an important experience for Tonkin as she empathized with the difficulties of 1st generation children and their journey towards finding homage and respect for their culture while adapting to American influence. Tonkin emphasizes that this collaboration has “instilled a greater appreciation for diversity and culture of the Asian American Pacific experience. The oral histories collected barely scratched the surface.” She said, revealing her excitement towards starting new projects.

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Students capture footage of Curtis’ interaction with youth of YHLH during a field trip tour to Pacific Aviation Museum

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Students take a tour of the museum to learn about Pacific Aviation history

 

Curtis Joe, nephew of Tom Gunn, Chinese Aviator of the Pacific Ocean sitting in for an interview

Curtis Joe, nephew of Tom Gunn, Chinese Aviator of the Pacific Ocean sharing the stories of his childhood

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Students take a tour of the museum to learn about Pacific Aviation history

February 18, 2014

Young Historians, Living History- Today’s Stop: Greensboro, NC!

Special thanks to Paula Lee, Smithsonian Affiliations intern, for this guest post. This is the second 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.

Students of the Montagnard community proudly representing the Smithsonian Museum and Greensboro Historical Center

Students of the Montagnard community proudly representing the Smithsonian Museum and Greensboro Historical Center

 

Greensboro, North Carolina is home to the largest Montagnard community living not only in the United States, but outside of Vietnam which makes Greensboro, a pretty big deal. Today I’ll share what the Young Historians, Living Histories project has enabled the Smithsonian and its collaborators to discover in the recent weeks! Dean Macleod, Curator of Education at the Greensboro Historical Museum (Greensboro, North Carolina), guided me through some fascinating facts about the Montagnard community that he learned through interacting with the community’s youth.

French for “mountain people,” the Montagnard (pronounced mon-tuhn-yahrd), are the indigenous people of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Due to political, religious, and land disputes initiated by the Communist majority of North and South Vietnam, the natives were evacuated from the highlands at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 through American efforts. The refugees began their resettlement to Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte, NC starting as early as 1986 in multiple but slow waves of immigration. There are as much as 9,000 Montagnard refugees in North Carolina with a majority in Greensboro, some of which have identified as Americans.

No 'I' in Team - Students take on different roles in order to complete the oral histories.

The diverse Montagnard youth unite to complete each role required for the interviewing processes.

With this in mind, Macleod approached the community with caution and respect and discovered that “the youth of the Montagnard community were thrilled that the Museum was engaging with them, and interested in digitizing their stories.” Although the 15 Montagnard students are of one community, they are unique to each other. Each student represented separate tribes as well as being refugees from different waves of immigration; some were born in Cambodia, others raised in Vietnam, and a few even born in America. Macleod remarks that the students’ involvement in the program was a way for them to feel like they were giving back for the sacrifices made by their ancestors.

The Montagnard stories in Greensboro even inspired other participating Affiliates to learn more. “I didn’t know anything about the Montagnard until hearing about this project. Thanks to the Greensboro Historical Museum, I’ve done a bit of research as a result,” said Shauna Tonkin, Director of Education at the Pacific Aviation Museum (Honolulu, Hawaii).

Because of this research, Greensboro Historical Center included the stories and artifacts in their Voices of a City: Greensboro North Carolina  exhibition. This exhibit displays 300 years of local history that enlighten its viewers on the extraordinary stories that the city has to say about the community that shaped it.

Voices of a City Exhibition Photo Credit: Greensboro Historical Center

Voices of a City Exhibition. Photo courtesy Greensboro Historical Center

Don’t forget to check back, next week’s entry will highlight students in action as we step into the spotlight and begin filming and interviewing!

Mic Check! Students prepare to begin filming the interviews.

Mic check ! Let’s get these stories heard.

Students help edit each other's interviews using Mac OS Editing Software

Students are using Mac OS Editing Software to edit their videos.

 

 

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