Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders can trace their histories to a region that spans more than half the globe. They have played key roles in shaping America's past, leaving an enduring impact in areas such as work, politics, culture, and law. They have done so as immigrants, sojourners, settlers, refugees, citizens, aliens, U.S. nationals, and members of overthrown sovereign kingdoms. Join us in exploring the rich and complex histories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through NMAH's collections, exhibitions, archives, and scholarly research.

Photo above: Pro skater Judi Oyama skating downhill at the Capitola Classic, 1980. Photo by Richard Oyama. Learn more.

Page from comic book highlighting Asian Americans with words, Shaping the American Future
“Shaping the American Future” by G.B. Tran, from the e-comic “I Want the Wide American Earth” produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. The comic tells the Asian Pacific American story in graphic narrative, featuring work by seven exciting Asian Pacific American comic artists.

Support Asian Pacific American History

Join us in ensuring that the stories and artifacts of millions of Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent are preserved for future generations. Your support of initiatives such as the Japanese American History Endowment will have a lasting impact on the museum and its millions of visitors of all backgrounds who will benefit from the extraordinary objects, vast research, and compelling programs presented. To learn more, contact the Office of External Affairs at 202-633-1841 or SupportNMAH@si.edu.

Events and Programming 

Upcoming

Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: Chinese Americans and the Power of Stir-Frying
September 30, 2021, 6:45 p.m. (online)

Grace Young
Guest Chef Grace Young. Photograph by Christine Han.

In Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge, culinary historian and award-winning cookbook author Grace Young writes of how the ancient technique of stir-frying played an important role in the culinary lives of Chinese migrants. In the United States, many families used their culinary skills to open businesses, including chop suey parlors, where that bland, made-up dish gained popularity. Young—known as “the stir-fry guru” and “wok therapist”—demonstrates her stir-fry expertise and shares tips on wok mastery for home cooks as she prepares a savory stir-fry of garlicky cabbage and bacon—a dish improvised in the 1940s by immigrant Lin Ong who used two common American ingredients to feed her nine children. She recounts her own San Francisco family’s unlikely wok story and her work to document COVID’s impact on Manhattan's Chinatown and to support the AAPI community nationwide. For 2020 Food History Weekend, writer Grace Young curated a special virtual gallery for the museum, Chinatown Stories, featuring her video-media work documenting COVID-19's impact on New York’s historic Chinatown.

This program is co-sponsored by the museum's American Food History Project and the Smithsonian Associates.

Past Programs

The links below highlight past museum programming on Asian Pacific American history topics.

Object Groups

These pages highlight selected areas of the museum's collection that relate to Asian Pacific American history.

Education 

The links below offer resources relating to Asian Pacific American history for K-12 education.

Resource Guides

  • Archival Materials. This guide includes archival material related to Asian Pacific American history from the museum's Archives Center and other selected Smithsonian museums and affiliates.
  • Interviews and Oral Histories. The Smithsonian Institution is a repository for a wealth of oral histories that document the vibrant cultures and histories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Food History. This guide from the museum's Food History Team assembles a wealth of resources which speak to and reflect the role of food in the migration, work, family, and community experiences of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
  • Additional Resources. This guide includes a wealth of additional Asian Pacific American history resources at the National Museum of American History and other Smithsonian museums and affiliates.