Archive Assignment

Archive Assignment

This assignment asks you to join the archival venture by creating your own Asian American archive. This is an opportunity for you to explore further any topics that have garnered your interest and attention over the course of the semester. As a group of two, you will decide on a specific topic of interest, and then compile an archive of primary items/texts (at least 4 items, at least 2 subpages). Then, you will annotate your materials and publish them to our course website, placing them in conversation with course topics and readings. At the end of the semester, you will present your archive to the class.

As you brainstorm possible approaches to your archive, you might consider the following categories. These are not strict guidelines; rather, they might help you to imagine the kinds of material that you might include and the kinds of topics that you might address. Your group is encouraged to meet with me to discuss ideas, and should submit your proposal to me by March 6. By March 20, you should submit a preliminary list of archival items and bibliography.

Possible Content Topics

  • An Event Archive would gather material that illustrates a complex picture of a specific event or a kind of event. For example, one could document legal developments, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 or the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, or an important milestone in Asian American history like Operation Babylift or the Third World Strike at San Francisco State University.
  • A Place Archive would focus on a specific site important to Asian American cultures. One might gather materials on the Hmong community in Minnesota, Angel Island, one of the Japanese internment camps, Los Angeles, or specific edifices like laundromats or Chinese restaurants. The significance of the site can be current or historical.
  • A Community Archive would explore the contributions that Asian Americans make to a specific community and the cultural expressions that unite this community. For example, one could focus on salmon fishery workers, baseball in the internment camps, or International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 37.
  • A Conceptual Archive would document a specific thread of Asian American culture and its various expressions. For example, one could explore the media coverage of Linsanity, comics as a mode of Asian American artistic expression, or interracial adoption.
  • A Literary Archive would collect novels, stories, non-fiction, poems, or plays by a specific writer or texts by different writers that examine a common theme. For example, a group could examine the Maxine Hong Kingston and Frank Chin debate, and examine its influence on other Asian American authors.

Kinds of Content

  • An Audio Archive might include songs, sound bites, interviews, and podcasts.
  • A Visual Archive might include photographs, pictures, art work, flyers, posters, and any image that you can scan into a digital format or that you can find online.
  • An Audiovisual Archive might include films, television shows, recordings of performances, and YouTube videos.
  • A Hybrid Archive might include a mixture of audio, visual, and audiovisual material.

The Proposal: Your group’s proposal should address the following questions, but it should be written as a single document, not as bullet-pointed answers to each question. Your proposal should be at least two double-spaced pages (Times New Roman 12pt, 1” margins).

  • What is the topic or focus of your archive? Why did you choose it? What personal experiences do you have with the topic? What are the most interesting facets of your topic that you plan to explore?
  • What kind of materials do you expect to include? Will the materials you include be primarily audio, visual, audiovisual, or written?
  • What do you expect to learn from your archive? With so many possibilities for material, the archive often refuses a singular interpretation; instead, its many components should reveal the complexity of the topic. What tensions, inconsistencies, or contradictions do you anticipate?
  • What do you think is the archive’s purpose? Many of the archives that we will encounter in the lesson material have a political purpose, such as raising awareness of a certain issue or ensuring that a certain culture and its expressions are not lost to future generations. What do you think your archive could do?

Creating a Website. Your group will create your archive through the Sites at Penn State platform ( The main page should serve as an introduction to the group’s archive, and also as the jump page for the separate subpages.

Creating annotations. Over the course of the semester, you will collect items to build your archive. For each item (or group of items), you should create a separate post on your website, and these posts will have two components.

  • The item itself: Sites at Penn State allows you to embed different forms of media into your posts, and you can upload your items using this function. If the item you have chosen is not suitable for a short post, find a way to represent that item in an appropriate visual or audio form. For example, if you want to include a novel as part of your archive, you won’t be able to include the entire text. In its place, you might post an image of the cover of the novel and a couple of representative quotations.
  • Your annotation: In addition to the item itself, you will write a brief annotation, which should include a description of what the item is, where the item came from, the year of its production, and the historical context that makes this item significant. Discuss in detail what significance the item has for your archive, drawing from the other items, what we’ve learned in class, as well as outside research. Each annotation should range from 300 to 500 words.