Tag Archives: Archives Month

Archives Month is over!  While we loved sharing stories from people who’ve influenced their communities, we really wanted to hear people’s thoughts about our archives.  We got a great response from our month-long survey; many thanks to everyone who participated!  The answers we received from you helps us to understand what you’re interested in.  Hopefully, we can address your questions so we can help you can understand us (and what we can provide) too.

Thanks for your questions!  Here are our answers:

Can you put all of VC’s content online for people to see?  Can I subscribe to access the archives online?

Unfortunately, we cannot put all of VC’s content online.  Several reasons exist for this.  The cost of digitization and storage is prohibitive.  Digitization takes a long time (just think about how long it takes to scan a photo, then multiply that to 300,000 photos at high resolution, which takes even longer).  We don’t have the funds, or the staff, to do this.  Our small online content is material we’ve carefully selected that we think is particularly interesting to people, and we hope to put more online in the future. We do not have subscription services.

How does one gain access to the archives?  Can I use the archives for academic research? Can I bring my class or group to visit?

If you’re interested in viewing the archives, for any reason, including academic research or just because, just email us.  We just need to schedule an appointment.  We can discuss class and group visits!

I don’t live in the LA area. How can I take advantage of the archives?

Many people who use our archival materials live all over the country.  We work with people over email frequently, and in some cases, they get proxy researchers to visit us on site if needed– just email us!

Do you have films for me to view?  How do I borrow DVDs of films featured in previous Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festivals?

We have lots of films for you to view– including VC productions as well as films from previous LA Asian Pacific Film Festivals.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the capabilities to allow people to borrow them.   If you want to view films, you can do so at our office.

Can you tell me how to convert old formats to newer formats?

Yes! Lots of resources exist online that can help you understand many types of materials (paper, video, digital, etc.) but not all up to archival standards.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about your materials.

Can I access the archives on the weekend?

We’re closed on the weekends.  Sorry!

Second, is there an index of archives across the country that collect Asian American community assets?

A specific index of archives that collect Asian American community assets doesn’t exist (that’s very specific!) but you can check ArchiveGrid, which is a nationwide directory of archives.  You can also check more narrow indexes like the Online Archive of California, which lists collections in California repositories.  Plug in any terms and collections with those matching terms will come up.  Happy Hunting!

Is Historypin a site for APIAs in California/LA only or is it nationwide? Does it include information on adopted Asian Americans?

Historypin is a user-generated, online portal of photo collections that’s based in England, so it’s worldwide!  Institutions and individuals from all over the world have channels on Historypin.  It does not have information on adoptees.

Many people requested workshops related to filmmaking (directing, screenwriting, editing, etc.).  We regularly hold workshops for filmmakers. For more information, please check our website.  You can also contact our Director of Artist Services, Milton Liu, for more questions.

As for archives-related workshops, we’ve held some on digital asset management and photo preservation.  We wanted to host one on how to manage personal collections, but unfortunately did not have enough people sign up.  We’d hold more workshops if the interest was there.  We don’t host online workshops, but many already exist!

Hope you enjoyed learning about the archives, and if you have any other questions or comments, feel free to contact us!

By Evelyn Yoshimura, Community Organizer

The other day, I was walking from the Gold Line station, headed back to my job at the Little Tokyo Service Center. As I passed the old historic JANM (Japanese American National Museum) building, I had a big flashback.

Buddha’s Birthday (Circa 1956)
My earliest memories of Little Tokyo include Hanamatsuri—the Buddha’s birthday.

Children from temples all over Southern California converged at the old Nishi Hongwanji—our Mother Temple, the previous inhabitant of the JANM historic building on First & Central.

I remember nothing of the service except the smell of incense.  But afterwards, noisy kids rumbled down the stairs from the hondo, down to the ground floor, and burst out through the double doors and spilling onto the streets of Little Tokyo, clutching tightly to little pink tickets in hand.

The tickets were our reward for good behavior during the service and could be redeemed in any number of the shops for treats like manju, the best snow cones in town, gum, candy or an ice cream cone at Kyodo drugstore with the old-fashion soda fountain counter; or comic books from the drug store at First & San Pedro, where you could sit and read them for hours at the very corner of the store that looked out onto that bustling intersection.


Fast-forward to 2013-14: By next summer, construction will begin on a new train station for the Regional Connector line, taking out Senor Fish, Weilands Brewery and the Spice Table restaurant. This future station will be built one story down underground and will be located across the street from the newer JANM building. And it will change everything.

Predicted to be the second busiest station next to Union Station, this train will bring lots of people to Little Tokyo from all over the region. Could be good for business for those who survive the five-year construction. But the hyper-development that it promises to bring could speed up the changes we already see in the 130-year-old neighborhood.

As a Buddhist, I know that change is the norm and inevitable. Little Tokyo will never be that neighborhood I grew up visiting for Hanamatsuri, Nisei Week carnivals or to buy Japanese goods. I can already see subtle but profound changes with new shops that now cater to a younger, hipper, multi-ethnic crowd. Designer sneaker shops, cafes that spill out onto the sidewalk, young people walking around dressed like anime characters, lots of dogs and even baby carriages crowding the sidewalks.

This liveliness and excitement is pumping new life and energy into the area and giving rise to these new and different kinds of businesses. This is a big improvement from the empty storefronts and broken car windows of the 1990s. But where is the tipping point when Little Tokyo is no longer our neighborhood?


Evelyn, in center, with the Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization, working to save Little Tokyo from redevelopment in the 1970s.

Many in the community who live, work, run businesses, attend temples & churches here, are asking ourselves that very question. We are coming together, looking past old differences and disagreements, trying to and keep a handle on this suddenly-trendy area. The vibrancy is good, but we also need to keep a connection to that 130-year-old story. It’s not easy—to be inclusive and embracing of the future and the new, while remaining connected to so much history and culture. And in a genuine way.

But we’re trying. And we welcome participation from any of you out there who wants to help. The next 5-10 years could be make-or-break time for our neighborhood.

Join us. If you want to help us, email me at

Tell us how you made your mark! How has your neighborhood changed over the years? Email us with your thoughts and photo (if you wish) at We’ll post it on the VC Facebook page.

October is American Archives Month.  This post is one of a series of blog posts that Visual Communications will present of Asian Pacific Americans who have made their mark on their communities and history.

Have you taken our archives survey yet?  If not, please take just– five– minutes to tell us your thoughts. Your opinions will help us prioritize our activities to better serve you and people like you. We believe in the importance of preserving Asian American stories and images, and making them accessible to all. You can join us in this team effort to help make the archives better!

2013VC_archivesmonthAfter you take the survey, you’ll have a chance to win an archives package that includes a VC Membership, tickets to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, a VC mug, and a VC archival print. Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!

By Steven Wong, Curator and Artist

L.A.’s Chinatown is changing.  If you don’t believe me, you may not have noticed Walmart has moved in.  It is perhaps needless for me to note the obvious, but change is inevitable.  So, regardless of where you stand politically on Walmart (they happen to fund the organization I work for); it needs to be said that Chinatown has always been a fluid yet resilient community.  But it is this change that reminds me of the necessity to document and archive our communities’ stories, histories, and experiences.

After being displaced from its original location to build Union Station, Chinatown relocated to its current location in 1938 with a master plan that was designed to bring in outside influences.  Then, its economy and livelihood depended on tourism, in a time when it was difficult, if not prohibited, for Chinese Americans to work and live outside of Chinatown.  Chinatown has a history of outside interaction that is built into its very architecture.

Before Walmart, “gentrifying” artists and galleries concentrated on Chung King Road (myself included).  Before the height of the Chinatown art scene in the early 2000s, there was Firecracker at the Grand Star, the underground Hip-Hop club that was launched in the late ‘90s. These are my popular experiences and memories that I have had with Chinatown.  But before Firecracker there was the Punk scene at Madame Wong’s and the Hong Kong Café in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s; and long before my time, there were the tourists and the Hollywood elite in the ‘40s and ‘50s who visited Chinatown as a cultural playground and tourist destination.

But those Chinatown histories and memories catered to outsiders.  Beyond Chinatown’s mythologies, façade, touristy plazas, galleries, and clubs — are the less visible, but more vibrant communities made up of residents, workers, Castelar students, church and temple members, family/district association members, b-ball players at the Alpine Rec, and those who work for, and are served by, social service and social justice organizations.  These communities are the ones that need to be remembered and their stories are the ones that need to be told.


Again, things change. But someone needs to remember these shifts.

Less fluid are my memories and the history of Chinatown.  My memories of visiting Chinatown in the ‘70s and ‘80s are not of the L.A. punk scene, but rather regularly visiting my great aunt in a tiny apartment on Broadway before shopping Yee Sing Chong, one of the few Chinese grocery stores at the time.  I remember helping pick out preserved eggs caked in what I then thought was black mud, sometimes coated with sawdust.  Today, these same eggs come clean and individually wrapped in shrink-wrapped plastic or in thin cellophane bags.

Rockett and Zoe on Chung King Road in Chinatown

My most cherished memories of living in Chinatown in 2000 are not attending the gallery openings nor attending Firecracker (sorry Darryl!), but regularly bringing my son and daughter, Rockett and Zoe, the half block from our home to the corner grocery, Hong Sang Lung.  I would get the neighborhood gossip from proprietor Marvin Lee while having him tally my hand-written tab, before returning with milk for the kids, canned coffee and a donut for myself.

I wish Rockett and Zoe were old enough to retain those memories of our visits to Hong Sang Lung, like I did with my parents to Yee Sing Chong, but they have already forgotten.  If and when they go though our family archives, they will find photographs of themselves and their community in Chinatown.  Our family archives will reinforce that Rockett and Zoe were, and are still are, part of the Chinatown community.  If and when they are able to go through the archives of Visual Communications and the Chinese American Museum, they will know that their experiences in Chinatown is part of a much larger story of the Chinese American experience, the Asian American experience, the American experience.

If the cherished memories of the next generation include shopping at Walmart with their family in Chinatown, then yes, things will have changed.  But again, all things change — except for our personal memories and collective memories that are protected in our collections and archives.  But as long as those future memories of Chinatown are of a diverse, thriving, ethnic, cultural and economic community, who am I to judge?

Tell us how you made your mark!

Did you grow up, or do you currently live in an ethnic enclave?  If not, how diverse is your neighborhood?  Email us with your thoughts and photo (if you wish) at We’ll post it on the VC Facebook page.

October is American Archives Month.  This post is one of a series of blog posts that Visual Communications will present of Asian Pacific Americans who have made their mark on their communities and history.

October is American Archives Month.  This post is one of a series of blog posts that Visual Communications will present of Asian Pacific Americans who have made their mark on their communities and history.

By Abe Ferrer, VC Staff

Linda_001I first met Linda Mabalot in 1980, as she and a group of fellow student activists affiliated with the statewide Asian Pacific Student Union (APSU) were presenting a VC documentary, MANONG, for a group of UCLA students at Paolo Agbayani Village in Delano, CA. A United Farm Workers retirement home that housed elderly Filipino American farmworkers (manongs), Agbayani Village was paid for and built largely by much volunteer help and was a popular destination for those who wanted a first-hand account of the experiences of first-generation Filipino immigrants to America.

However, I became familiar with Linda and her work some years before when, during my freshman year in college, my best friend’s roommate, Juliette Masculino, was recounting her location nightmares for “some video project” she was working on. That project was MANONG, one of four components of an ambitious four-part series, “Hidden Treasures,” that would offer a uniquely Pan-Asian Pacific flavor to the lives of America’s unseen and underserved communities. Linda was the project director of MANONG and, owing to VC’s credo of “self-determined” media arts production, she and the whole crew was largely learning filmmaking “on-the-job.” Well, not totally. VCers Alan Kondo and Takashi Fujii, who introduced video as a low-cost filmmaking format to VC, were on board to lend technical advice as well as moral support. And Janice Tanaka, a USC film school student possessing a wealth of knowledge in picture and sound editing, came aboard to assist Linda and steady the ship. Yet, there was no mistaking that MANONG was Linda Mabalot’s baby, as her background having grown up in Sacramento Valley farmlands similar to those worked by the manongs lent a crucial understanding of the subject at hand.

Critical to linking the history of first-generation Filipinos in California to the statewide farmworkers’ movements of the 1960s, Linda and crew made numerous visits to Agbayani Village to interview the still-feisty manongs living in retirement there. As well, they sojourned to the Bakersfield home of Philip Vera Cruz, a retired farmworker and labor leader who served as the United Farm Workers’ Second Vice President, and whose stature as a genuine Asian Pacific American mentor, role model, and pioneer grew exponentially in the years after the MANONG documentary was completed in 1978.

PA016916ALooking back at the videotape and on the complete story that Linda and crew essayed, it was true that Philip and his exploits occupied a very small part of that story. In fact, the oral histories that accompanied the wealth of archival images, original artwork, and compelling b-roll footage held much value, as did first-hand testimonials by such colorful Agbayani Village residents as Willie Barrientos, “Chairman Mao,” and others. Yet the impact of Vera Cruz could not be overstated. As a dedicated activist and organizer, his story has been a largely romanticized and unsung one when placed beside that of more fiery personalities as fellow union organizer Larry Itliong. I think, though, that because Philip came across to the younger generations (like me) as a humble sage, his legacy reached almost rock-star status in the years before he passed away in 1994 at age 89. I think he’d be the first one to debunk that notion, though. Philip was definitely of a generation that had many ass-kickers who paved the way for today’s generation of Filipino Americans — many of whom are poseurs and misrepresent the contributions of folks like Philip, Larry, or for that matter, Linda, educator Royal Morales, novelist Al Robles, actor Jose DeVega, and many others who are no longer here to mentor, lead, or adminster some “tough love” to those who need it.

When Philip passed away in 1994, me, Linda, Taiji Miyagawa, and a few other VCers braved the hot central California heat to attend a memorial ceremony in Bakersfield. Needless to say, a lot of folks whose lives Philip touched were there to offer tribute and reminiscences of his life and legacy. None of us actually got up to say anything to the audience. There really was no need. I think that then, as now, we continue to apply the lessons that Philip and the rest have taught us to our everyday lives. And with Linda herself passing on in 2003, the need to carry on a community vision is as strong as ever. With Philip, all we have to remember him by is a set of U-Matic videotapes of an interview that was barely used in the documentary, as well as black-and-white still images of that interview session. Linda’s legacy is more tangible and living: this very organization, and the vast community of good people that worked here, schemed here, and made wonderful things happen…here.

Tell us how you made your mark!

If you could interview any hero/role model/influence, inspiration who would it be?  Email us with your thoughts and photo (if you wish) at We’ll post it on the VC Facebook page.

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