Out of the Archives: Arts, Asia, America

Today, Out of the Archives is looking at Art. Big A art, as in the artasiaamerica digital archive, which saves and displays contemporary art history. I actually came across it looking for Khmer American archival material, which has been difficult to find. There is some politics involved in the process of recording and memory, based on financial ability, the visibility of causes, and America’s  relations with countries. Is there not? Luckily, artsasiaamerica holds some of the work of Leah Melnick, a Jewish American photographer who worked with and documented the Khmer community in the Bronx, NY:

cambodian teenagers

Two Cambodian teenagers and friend

11×14 inches (h x w x d)

This image is from the exhibit “From Cambodia to the Bronx” at the Asian American Arts Centre in 1988. In the center of this image is the late Leah Melnick.


group portraits

Look how different the metadata is for this arts archive, compared with academic library archives! What? That’s not what interests you? But it interests me! Archivists, help me out! While I wait for the cavalry, here’s more on the archive, via the arts asia american website:

artasiamerica is a professional digital archive of Asian/Asian American contemporary visual artists. It is a historical image & document archive specialized in Asian American visual culture from 1945 to the present. Currently emphasis is on artists participating in Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) exhibition program initiated in 1983.

artasiamerica is a high-quality research tool accessible globally to scholars, historians, curators, artists, as well as an educational resource for college and high school students, teachers, and community members.

In 2006, one of a number of grants from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) to cultural organizations in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown area post 9.11, enabled us to start the process of digitizing the first group of artists, chosen from over 1,500 files in the AAAC Artist Archive. This picture of the creative presence of Asians in the USA now sees the light of day and is accessible to a national and international public.

Launched in summer 2009, its main emphasis for the next few years will continue to be artists participating in Asian American Arts Centre (AAAC) exhibition program in New York City since 1983 to the present. Artists who have been key for AAAC in exemplifying the subject of Asian American art and the issues that embody the question of diversity in America during the past 60 years are priority for the selection process. artasiamerica will also include an exhibition history section that introduces a timeline of the history of Asian American artists and their relationships with AAAC in the past 30 years.