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2010 National APIA Historic Preservation Forum

 June 24-26 | San Francisco, CA

In 2010 more than 100 individuals attended the first biennial Asian Pacific Islander American Historic Preservation Forum in San Francisco, Calif. It attracted a variety of groups with a range of experiences, from new grassroots community efforts to projects over 30 years in the making.


The theme of the first Forum was “Preserving Asian Pacific Islander America: Mobilizing Our Community.” And mobilize it did. Attendees gained a sense of purpose and energy, and--most importantly--they left with a shared idea of the role of preservation in the Asian and Pacific Islander American community.


The purpose of the Forum was to mobilize Asian and Pacific Islander American communities to participate in the preservation movement of protecting significant buildings, the built environment, archaeological sites, and other aspects of importance in cultural heritage, to share their histories and historic sites, to educate the Asian and Pacific Islander American community, and to engage young people in Asian and Pacific Islander American preservation. Preservationists provide the present and future generations with an understanding of the past, a tangible and visible contact with history that highlights aspects of the past and helps to recall social values and past events. It is a visible demonstration of the changing times and a community identity that results in a sense of belonging for a particular group. It is a window to the understanding of the contributions of different groups, such as Asian and Pacific Islander American, who have contributed to the building of the American mosaic.


The three keynote speakers were Dr. Sue Fawn Chung of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Advisor Emeritus of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP), Irene Hirano Inouye, President of the Ford Foundation Board and of the U.S.-Japan Council of Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles and also a Trustee of the NTHP, and Anthony Marion Babauta, Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs, Department of the Interior.


The Kabuki Hotel was the scene of people engaged in similar preservation projects meeting for the first time, exchanging business cards, and giving each other advice and support as the historic preservation takes a more prominent role in the Asian and Pacific Islander American communities.


Historic sites are generally listed on the state and national registers, but according to Elaine Jackson-Rotondo of the National Park Service, only three percent of the sites on the national register represent the minority locations and of this figure, less than three percent are Asian or Pacific Islander American. The representatives from Guam, for example, shared their concerns about preserving maritime archaeology and the cultural heritage of one of their people currently threatened by the construction of a new military base on Guam. Chinese Americans discussed their efforts to save Riverside’s Chinatown, Fresno’s Chinatown, and specific buildings like the Daoist Bok Kai Temple in Marysville, California. Forum participants toured various sites, including Angel Island, the main immigration center for those entering the United States via the Pacific Ocean between 1910 and 1940, which was the recipient of several major grants, including an American Express grant.


Participants agreed to embrace preservation efforts that include the tangible and the intangible, along with various cultural art forms, traditions, language, associations, businesses, stories, food, festivals and all other activities that help to define these place-based ethnic communities. They further resolved to identify and protect places whose historic meaning for the APIA communities has been veiled by time, but can be revealed by new efforts to document and educate.


For proceedings on the 2010 Forum, click here for the PDF report. 

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