Monday, July 23, 2012

"Attachments": New Immigration Exhibit at the National Archives

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Via National Public Radio, we have word of a new exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  Titled "Attachments: Faces and Stories from America's Gates," the exhibit uses the documents and photographs "attached" to government immigration case files to "tell[] the stories of men, women, and children who found themselves at the gateways to America between 1880 and the end of World War II."

Readers might recognize some of these stories from historian Erika Lee's At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration during the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (University of North Carolina Press). Here's more on that connection, from NPR:
When she was in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley, in the mid-1990s, [Lee] was researching the Exclusion Era, a period in which Chinese immigration to the U.S. was severely restricted.
Lee called library after library looking for primary source material but came up empty. Then she called the National Archives in San Bruno, Calif.
"I was expecting the usual 'No, I'm sorry,' and to my surprise, the archivist there said, 'Yeah! We have about 70,000 individual immigrant case files that have just been released to the public'," Lee said.
There were boxes and boxes of files. Too many to count. The first file she asked to see was her own family's. When she opened it, her grandmother's wedding photograph fell out.
Read on (or listen) here.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. It runs from June 15, 2012 to September 4, 2012.