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MIA: Hi, I'm MIA.
KIRIN: And I'm KIRIN.
MIA: We're at the Smithsonian Institution
in Washington, DC to learn more about our
heritage as Asian Pacific Americans.
KIRIN: As well as the many contributions
that Asian Pacific Americans have made to our culture.
MIA: Let's start our visit in the Smithsonian Castle.
KIRIN: Great idea! .... The Smithsonian has been called AMERICA"S
ATTIC but I think
it's really AMERICA'S TREASURES. It collects
objects and art works from all our different
cultures, as well as historical artifacts,
scientific specimens, and technological innovations
made by all Americans from all walks of life.
MIA: It's easy to spot Asian inventions.
Fireworks, paper, even paper money, all invented in Asia.
KIRIN: And the Chinese invented movable type
hundreds of years before Gutenberg.
MIA: Look! Fancy china designed by architect
Frank Lloyd Wright. Did you know he studied in Japan?
KIRIN: Just the word CHINA...guess why it's
MIA: Over here, Kristi Yamaguchi's skates,
she was one of many Asian Americans to win
an Olympic Gold Medal.
KIRIN: I've always loved to watch her skate!
KIRIN: The Smithsonian has a lot to say about the triumphs of Asian
What about our struggles?
MIA: Yeah, like the fact that Kristi's mother
was born during World War II in an American
prison camp for people of Japanese descent,
most of whom were U.S. citizens.
KIRIN: We've overcome a lot of obstacles
in our long history on this continent.
FRANKLIN: Hi, I'm Franklin Odo , Director
of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American
Program and a curator at the National Museum
of American History. Welcome to the Smithsonian!
KIRAN, MIA: Nice to meet you!
While the Smithsonian doesn't have a museum
specifically focused on Asian Pacific Americans,
I can tell you almost every one of our museums
has something important to say about our experiences.
FRANKLIN: The 19 different Museums and research
centers of the Smithsonian, plus the National Zoo, of the Smithsonian
have hundreds of photos, documents, and artifacts
related to Asian Pacific Americans on display.
And the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American
Program creates exhibitions about
APAs. Our office also offers public programs
throughout the year. We do things like lectures, book readings
and signings, film screenings, and conferences.
KIRIN: That's incredible. So, where should
FRANKLIN: Well, how about starting with the National
Museum of the American Indian.
KIRIN: The Pacific was navigated for thousands
of years by Pacific Islanders, including native
Hawaiians, using canoes just like this one,
only much larger. They had to be large enough
for living space and to carry food and livestock,
too. Those were LONG journeys they had to
be prepared for!
MIA: The Pacific is huge. How could people
find their way across in something like this?
KIRIN: They used stars for guidance, and
built maps using sticks and shells to symbolize
islands, waves, and currents. Amazingly the
same navigation techniques still work today!
MIA: That means that the very first APAs
came to North America thousands of years before the Europeans.
KIRIN: Wow! And much later, after the United
States was founded and the country grew, European
Americans brought more Asians here to do heavy labor.
MIA: The Smithsonian has historical artifacts
that tell that story. But we have to go to
a different museum to see them...
KIRIN: American History?
MIA: Right! Let's go.
KIRIN: We learned in grade school that the
transcontinental railroad was built in large
part by thousands of workers brought over
MIA: But when this photograph was taken
at the joining of the East and West sections,
all the Chinese workers were sent away, so
they wouldn't appear in the photo.
MIA: You bet!
KIRIN: About this time, California began
to be a center of agriculture.
MIA: Asians, including Chinese, Japanese,
and Filipinos, provided cheap labor for a
rapidly growing industry, raising vegetables,
fruits. Hey, did you know that a Korean American
farmer invented the nectarine? And Ah Bing,
a Chinese-American, developed the Bing cherry!
KIRIN: And out in Hawaii, sugar cane production
was primarily done by Asian immigrants. The
Smithsonian has a collection of knives that
Asian workers used to cut the cane.
MIA: That's back-breaking work! I can understand
why they would need lots of workers to do that job!
KIRIN: But there were a lot of barriers
to immigration. Not just in California, but
across the country.
MIA: Let's find out more about that story.
Noriko> Hi, I'm Noriko, and I was part of
the team that created this exhibit.
While the United States is proud to be a nation
of immigrants, our country erected lots of
racist barriers specifically against Asians.
MIA: Yeah, look at this sculpture. Here
are all the other ethnic groups inside the
eagle's nest, but the Chinese worker doesn't
look like he's going to make it.
Noriko: Unfortunately, this sculpture was
all too accurate. Congress passed a series
of laws making it almost impossible for Asians
to enter the country, starting with the Chinese
Exclusion Act of 1882.
KIRIN: What if someone wanted to come
NORIKO: Some lucky Asians were able to immigrate,
even after the laws were passed. Having money
and connections helped. Others came as PICTURE
BRIDES, women who married men who lived in
the United States that they only knew from
exchanging photos! And after 1910, San Francisco's
Angel Island became a detention center for
would be immigrants. One way they could avoid
deportation was to convince an officer that
they were sons or daughters of U.S. citizens.
Officers would ask endless questions about
their parents and their families to try to
see if they were REALLY related to someone
in the U.S.
KIRIN: Is that where the PAPER SONS came
Noriko> Right! Many were legitimate sons and
daughters of U.S. citizens, but many others
just pretended to be.
KIRIN: Look, here's a coaching book. The
label says that immigrants would buy these
books and study them for months to prepare
for their interview.
MIA: That's a remarkable story. But let's
back up a little. Does this case include anything
about the Japanese American prison camps during
World War II?
Noriko: No, this exhibit is about immigration.
The exhibit, THE PRICE OF FREEDOM goes into
this...one of the less shining moments of
Noriko: After the attack on Pearl Harbor,
a surge of anti Japanese hysteria took place
in the country. Many loyal Americans of Japanese
descent were forced to move from their homes
and farms. Eventually 120,000 people were
locked up for years in barbed wire prisons
in desolate places, like this one in Hart
Mountain, Wyoming. Ironically, a segregated
group of Japanese American soldiers became
the most decorated unit in U.S. history.
MIA: That's so unfair. I saw a painting
about this...Roger Shimomura's DIARY: DECEMBER
Noriko>It's in the Smithsonian American Art
MIA: Thank goodness after the war immigration
barriers finally began to tumble.
and Asian Pacific American cultures became
much more accepted as part of daily life.
What artifacts are here at the Museum that
show the experiences of Asian Americans?
Noriko: Oh, there are so many, both on display
and behind the scenes.
MIA: Let's go see some!
FRANKLIN: So the Smithsonian collects artifacts
from daily life, called MATERIAL CULTURE like
KIRIN: Wow! I love yo-yos, can I try one
FRANKLIN: Not without special permission,
these are part of our study collection and some
are worth thousands of dollars.
KIRIN: What's the Asian connection?
FRANKLIN: Well the yo-yo was supposed to
have originated in China. The oldest yo-yos
in our collection were manufactured in a plant
started by a man named Pedro Flores, a Filipino
American. He's been credited with starting
the yo-yo rage in America.
KIRIN: What about other games?
FRANKLIN: Asian games you mean? There's
the game of GO and there's chess, dominoes,
mahjong, chutes and ladders even!
KIRIN: Those are so old school. What about
MANGA or Japanese comics? And anime and Astro
Boy and Hello Kitty and Pokemon, Dragonball,
KIRIN: Slow down! One thing at a time. Does
the Smithsonian collect MANGA?
FRANKLIN: Well Not here at the Museum of
American History...at least not yet! But we
can visit the Freer gallery and check out
some of their woodcuts, which some say are
precursors of today's anime and MANGA.
>>MIA: Great, let's go!
MIA: I read that the roots of MANGA go way
back, some say even as far as 12th century Japan...
KIRIN: Didn't the great Japanese artist
Hokusai create a series of prints he called
MANGA? Can we see them?
FRANKLIN: Well, throughout the Freer and
Sackler galleries, you'll find very important
examples of art from all over Asia. But for
now, let's go behind the scenes so we can
see some of Hokusai's more fragile pieces.
KIRIN: Wow! We're so lucky to be able to
FRANKLIN: Hokusai lived from 1760 to 1849.
He was one of the masters of the Japanese
woodblock prints, or UKIYOA. And what you
see before you are two real volumes from his
MANGA or sketches, the first of which was
published in 1814.
>>KIRIN: These are like a catalog of all the
different ways to tell a story or show an
FRANKLIN: Yes and for comparison or contrast
you might check out contemporary Asian Pacific
American artists some of whom are represented
in other Smithsonian museums.
MIA: I really wanted to visit the Smithsonian
American Art Museum...
KIRIN: To visit the Electronic Superhighway?
MIA: Right, let's go!
KIRIN: Nam June Paik was born in Korea in
1930 and lived and lived and worked in New
York City. He's known as the father of video
MIA: I like the way that this sculpture
represents a cross-section of America, Paik's
KIRIN: I like how the work shows that we
are all part of the American family.
MIA: We've seen a lot today, but I think
we've only scratched the surface!
KIRIN: That's for sure. We hope that you'll
take every opportunity to visit the Smithsonian.
MIA: To see for yourself how Asian Pacific
Americans have lived and worked.
KIRIN: And how we're all deeply integrated
into the life and culture of the United States.