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Map of St. Louis 1932
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New Grant to Construct the History of Asian Americans in St. Louis

Joan Wang, East Asian and Chinese studies librarian at the  Washington University Libraries, was awarded a $10,000 grant from Missouri Humanities for a project, Asia in St. Louis: A Story Map Dedicated to the Greater Saint Louis Community. In collaboration with Uluğ Kuzuoğlu, assistant professor in the Department of History, Mitsutaka Nakamura, Japanese and Korean studies librarian, Jennifer Moore, head of Data Services, and Miranda Rectenwald, curator of Local History, the project will revisit and construct the history of Asian Americans in Saint Louis.

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By using an intuitive digital humanities tool, ArcGIS StoryMap, the project will bring together primary sources, interactive maps, images, narratives, and interview videos to depict the stories of Asian Americans in twentieth-century St. Louis. The project will lead to a follow-up virtual workshop for the public to discuss the interconnected histories of the United States and Asia.

The StoryMap project will utilize primary sources from four local special collections/archives and historical societies: Washington University Libraries, Missouri Historical Society, State Historical Society of Missouri-Saint Louis, and the National Archives in Kansas City. The project will be structured around four themes: historical traces of Asian Americans in Saint Louis, case studies of early Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans, and civil rights movements.

Black and whote photo of Asian Americans standing in front of a glass front store with the sign "First Class" Laundry
Private James Jewick and family in old Chinatown, St. Louis (1952-54).

The story map will feature historical footprints of Asian Americans in Saint Louis, for instance,  Hop Alley, the Chinatown before its demolition in the 1960s; the last Chinese-owned hand laundry, Sam Wah Laundry, operated by the Gee brothers for 65 years; the experiences of the diaspora of Chinese Americans from the Hop Alley region of downtown; the arrival of interned Japanese Americans in World War II; the “Seiwa-en” Japanese Garden at Saint Louis Missouri Botanical Garden; and many more pivotal cultural moments.

The project will engage with scholars and historians from Washington University in Saint Louis, local state universities, historical societies, local cultural organizations, the first and second generations of Asian Americans living in St. Louis, and the general public who are interested in inter-connected histories. The story map, publicly available upon completion, will provide the public a platform to learn and interact with the half-century history of colonization, world wars, social dislocation, and resettlement, and to gain a better understanding of racial and cultural diversity, the powerful interaction of historical forces, and today’s multicultural and multiethnic Saint Louis community.

The grant project is inspired by a Washington University spring 2022 course, Historical Method-Transregional, offered by the Department of History. Special thanks to the instructor, Uluğ Kuzuoğlu and all students in the class.

about the east asian Library

Part of the Washington University Libraries, the East Asian Library supports the teaching, study, and research needs of the Program in East Asian Languages and Cultures and other academic departments, schools, and programs at Washington University.

The library has over 168,271 books and bound serials, including 104,952 volumes in Chinese, 58,611 volumes in Japanese, and 4,708 volumes in Korean, plus extensive collections of microfiche, microfilm, and electronic resources. The library also houses about 800 volumes of rare and special books, manuscripts, and other materials.