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.
Events and Programming
Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge: Chinese Americans and the Power of Stir-Frying
September 30, 2021, 6:45 p.m. (online)
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.
- Purchase tickets (available June 1)
The links below highlight past museum programming on Asian Pacific American history topics.
- Day of Remembrance
- Viral Histories: Stories of Racism, Resilience, and Resistance in Asian American Communities
- Heritage IRL: Ruby Ibarra
- Heritage IRL: Malaka Gharib and Angel Trazo
These pages highlight selected areas of the museum's collection that relate to Asian Pacific American history.
- Clothes and Heritage: Chinese American Clothes from the Virginia Lee Mead Collection
- El Monte Sweatshop: Operation, Raid, and Legacy
- Japanese American Incarceration Era Collection
- Sushi Collection
- The Tokuno Gift
The links below offer resources relating to Asian Pacific American history for K-12 education.
- Becoming US is a new educational resource for high school teachers and students to learn immigration and migration history in a more accurate and inclusive way.
- National Youth Summit: Japanese American Incarceration in World War II explores the forcible removal of over 120,000 Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast during World War II. In this webcast, the panelists explored this period in American history and considered how fear and prejudice can upset the delicate balance between the rights of citizens and the power of the state.
- Smithsonian Social Studies Online: How can the past inform our present and future? (Learning Lab)
- Smithsonian Social Studies Online: What happens when cultures collide? (Learning Lab)
- Smithsonian Social Studies Online: What is my community and how does it fit within the nation? (Learning Lab)
- Smithsonian Social Studies Online: What is our moral obligation during times of crisis? (Learning Lab)
- 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.