Posted on 10/05/2021

#Culture #United States of America

12 sites where you can learn about Asian American history

Asian and Pacific Islander people (AAPI) have had very important roles in shaping American history, more than most people think. The past year has been hard on everyone, but it has been worse for Asian-Americans, who are experiencing more anxiety and panic, many fear for their lives when they are out and about. The Asian-American community is struggling. It is always important to check in on your friends, but be sure to make the time for your Asian-American friends to let them know that they are seen, heard and make them feel safe and welcome. So what better way to show your support by learning about their importance in American history and acknowledging them. Here are 12 important sites in the US where you can learn more about Asian-American history and culture.

Asian and Pacific Islander people (AAPI) have had very important roles in shaping American history, more than most people think. The past year has been hard on everyone, but it has been worse for Asian-Americans, who are experiencing more anxiety and panic, many fear for their lives when they are out and about. The Asian-American community is struggling. It is always important to check in on your friends, but be sure to make the time for your Asian-American friends to let them know that they are seen, heard and make them feel safe and welcome. So what better way to show your support by learning about their importance in American history and acknowledging them. Here are 12 important sites in the US where you can learn more about Asian-American history and culture.

Chinatown New York, New York

Naturally Chinatown will be a great place to immerse yourself in Asian culture but also to learn. This lively neighborhood was built on the backbone of immigrants and has been thriving thanks to generations of families, entrepreneurs and organizations. "Chinatown is one of the U.S.'s most iconic cultural enclaves for Asian Americans. Whether you're a first-time visitor, or a local resident, every corner of Chinatown has its gems. We encourage you to stop and learn the stories of the small business owners. It means so much to them when visitors offer a smile and acknowledge their entrepreneurial efforts. Shopping in Chinatown is unlike anywhere else - you can find household goods, special gifts made by hard-working people, and of course, delicious, authentic eats," explains Jennifer Tam and Christina Hui, co-founders of Welcome to Chinatown, a grassroots initiative supporting Manhattan Chinatown in light of COVID-19's economic impact. - Yevgenia Gorbulsky / 123RF

Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, California

This museum has one of the most comprehensive Asian art collections in the world. The museum has over 18,000 works of art in its permanent collection, there is also a fully functional authentic Japanese tea room on the second floor. You can also find several offers of virtual events throughout the year. The museum is described as a "vibrant hub for discovering the magnificent artistic achievements and intriguing history of the world's most populous continent, the Asian Art Museum continues to bridge cultures, engage the imagination, and inspire new ways of thinking." In short, it's a must-see for anyone curious about Asian artistic endeavors.

The Panama Hotel in Seattle, Washington

The Panama Hotel was built in 1910. The hotel is six-stories high and is dubbed a National Treasure by the National Park Service. It has remained intact and is still home to the original belongings, suitcases, trunks boxes and so much more of Japanese Americans who were detained in relocation centers during World War II. They never came back for their belongings. The first floor has an authentic tea room which is open to the public. In the basement, you will find an urban Japanese-style bath house, called a sento, that was designed by Sabro Ozasa. Sabro Ozasa was the first Japanese American architect to practice in Seattle.

Angel Island in San Francisco, California

Angel Island is also known as "Ellis Island of the West", it served as a military installation during the Civil War and during World War II. it was then transformed into an immigration station in 1905. From 1910 and 1940, the immigration station, which is found on the largest island in San Francisco Bay, processed up to one million Asian and other immigrants that came into the US - this is an estimated number. Within the one million there were 250,000 Chinese and 150,000 Japanese people. Visitors to the island can now step back in time and observe historic photographs, artifacts and even see a life-like recreation of immigration living quarters and interrogation rooms. - Denis Radovanovic / 123RF

The Pendleton Underground in Pendleton, Oregon

In the late 1800s, the Chinese were the ones who built the essential railroads that connected the West coast to the East coast. After they had finished the railroads, they decided to build an underground network of tunnels in eastern Oregon. Nowadays, you can visit these tunnels. They are known as the Underground Pendleton and were home to secret controversial businesses such as saloons, apothecaries, bordellos, butcher shops, opium dens, and many more. This hidden gem wasn't discovered until the 1980s by city workers. The tunnels were built as at the time, Chinese immigrants were harshly discriminated against, and in order to remain safe. Thanks to these tunnels, the Chinese community was able to move around freely without fearing for their lives and they could conduct business.

Golden Spike National Historical Park in Corinne, Utah

The Golden Spike Monument was built to remember and honour the Chinese immigrant workers that sacrificed their lives and their accomplishments for building the Transcontinental Railroad. For some context, the Transcontinental Railroad was completed on May 10 1869 and was mainly thanks to the dedicated and hard work of Chinese immigrants, an estimated 11,000 of them were underpaid compared to their working and living conditions. The Chinese workers' job was to lay 10 miles of track in one day, this record has not been beaten to this day. Even though they were paid less than the other native and European workers, the Chinese's work was more reliable and of higher quality, they would often sacrifice their health and safety and in some cases their lives. The Chinese Arch, which is composed of unique Cuprous Quartzite stone, is easily visible in the rock work of the external walls. There is also a dedicated plaque in the park to commemorate the fallen Chinese laborers.

The Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, Washington

The Wing Luke Museum is the only community-based museum in the US that is dedicated to the history of pan-Asian Pacific Americans. The Wing Luke Museum is named after the first Asian American who was elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest. It's situated in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown Historic District. The museum is also known as "The Wing", it is in a historic building that was built in 1910 by Chinese immigrants, you can also catch a glimpse into the life of the early Asian settlers, along with artifacts, photographs, documents, books, oral histories and more. Guests can travel back in time and walk through a preserved immigrant apartment and a full reproduction of the Yick Fung Company Store, one of the oldest general stores in Chinatown.

Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles, California

The Chinese American Museum is the first museum in Southern California dedicated to the Chinese American experience and history in the museum. The museum serves as a research on the 150 years of Chinese American experience in California. The museum is set inside the oldest surviving Chinese building in Southern California, which is the 1890 Garnier Building. The museum is home to unique artifacts such as antique furniture, children's toys, traditional wedding gowns. You can also observe old faded photographs but also old letters from loved ones in China. You can also listen to audio recordings from elderly Chinese Americans that shared their memories of growing up in Old Chinatown.

Manzanar Historic Site in Independence, California

When it comes to feeling welcome in the US Asian Americans have found it difficult to, in some way it makes sense when you take a look at history. In 1942, the US government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children, many of whom were American citizens, to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. The Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where Japanese Americans and resident Japanese aliens were detained during World War II. The site is worth visiting today as it gives you a deeper perspective on the past. This historic site offers photographs, artifacts, but also has two reconstructed barracks, a reconstructed women's latrine and a remodeled World War II era mess hall. All these elements allow visitors to really see what it was really like living in these conditions against your will. If you have the time, you can make this a day trip and explore the surroundings too including Japanese gardens, orchards, a baseball field, and the Shepherd Ranch, with a self-guided 3.2 mile bike or driving tour. - Mkopka / 123RF

Asia on Argyle in Chicago, Illinois

If you would like an authentic taste of Chinese American and Southeast Asian cultures, then Chicago is a great place to visit. Head to Uptown's Asia on Argyle, where you can find restaurants and bakeries as well as shops and other small businesses. This is now the designated historic district as it has undergone some transformations in the last few decades, thanks to the effort put in by Asian immigrants and refugees. This culturally rich area also boasts several impressive murals that colorfully depict the community's journey.

USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California

USC Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena is one of four US institutions that is dedicated to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The USC Pacific Asia Museum is a must as it has an impressive collection of 15,000 and more objects, that span across 4,000 years from the region of Persia to the Pacific Islands. The building resembles a classic Chinese pagoda with its otus and peony flower decorations, it comes complete with a visually stunning courtyard. The arched entrance of the museum is an exact replica of the Buddhist library in Beijing, the upturned roofline is meant to ward off evil spirits from invading. Antique ceramic dogs on the roof keep watch for enemies.

Museum of Chinese in America in New York, New York

The Museum of Chinese in America has been named one of America's treasures and it aims to "redefine the American story one narrative at a time". Lonnie G. Bunch III, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, fondly described his visit there: "The Museum of Chinese in America helps fill a void in our understanding of America." The Museum of Chinese in America used to house almost 85,000 treasured artifacts and collectibles chronicling Chinese American history? Sadly, in January 2020, the museum succumbed to a fire, and then was majorly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The museum is currently working to reopen, while we wait for that to happen, you can see their robust online exhibits, their ongoing virtual events, and thought-provoking webinars featuring prominent voices in the Chinese-American community.

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