Proposal for the public history project

My project is to display the history of Chinese Americans from 1850s to the present. The project focuses on their contributions and tribulations in the U.S. during the 150 years which make a significant of American legacy today. The display tries to argue that the Chinese immigrants, as other ethnic groups, make great contributions to this country but as the first and only ethnic group targeted by American law for exclusion, they had to continuously strive for equal civil rights since Chinese Exclusion Act took effect in 1882. The project will focus on the unique path of Chinese immigrants, bringing the stories of success, violence, self-help, difficulties and struggle together. These Chinese include famous people such as doctors as well as common Chinese, including the Chinese mafia. There are doctors who, by their researches, enriched American diet and invented new drugs that greatly improved the public health. And they are “small people” who were laundry men or gold miners who used legal means to obtain justice. The project aims to show the stories of common people using a bottom-up approach instead of treating Chinese as a whole homogenizing everyone, like other projects on Chinese Americans. The project will also include Chinese Americans’ experience after the ban on Asian immigration was lifted in 1965 and show to the audience what the Chinese immigrants now think and do in the U.S.

The digital technologies to do the project are mainly Omeka and the embedded plugins. The forms include videos, pictures, pdf files as well as texts. Many of the sources are primary sources which come from my own historical research and digitised archives from many institutions such as the National Archives and New York public library. The featured categories on the front page such as “featured item” and “featured exhibit” help highlight the things I would like to demonstrate most. The challenge is how to integrate the abundance of valuable resources with the excellent features of Omeka rather than simple listing of sources.

The target audience of the display is the general public. The first target audience is the Americans in the town where I live. It has a diversified population because of the university. So, the audience ranges from highly-educated people such as professors to the common Americans who may or may not have idea of the Asian community in the country. There are also internationals. The town has an African American museum which commemorates African Americans and John A.Logan museum which commemorates a white American General in American Civil War. So, one of my goals is to fill the gap that there is no institutions about Asian Americans who are in a small percentage of American population but have been in the U.S. for more than 150 years and made great contributions. Though it is a digital public history, I hope through my work, local Americans can have a clear idea of Chinese Americans. This may build new knowledge of Chinese Americans in them or correct their stereotype of Chinese Americans, or Asian communities. The secondary target audience is general public, in and out of the U.S. I hope through the digital public history project, they can understand the history of Chinese Americans and the importance of diversity, equality and liberty which are still the issues of the world today. Through the project I hope to show that diversity can lead to prosperity and liberty and equality concerns everyone. People’s fight for them can benefit everybody in the society.

In short, my project is to use Omeka and the historical archives I collected online and in the physical institutions to demonstrate the complexity of the Chinese immigrants’ path in the past 150 years. It is a path of success, struggle, tears and pride.


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