Each year, when UT AMS returns to campus for the fall, we ask our faculty and graduate students to report on their summer activities. First up is doctoral student Andi Remoquillo who interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Read on for research discoveries, blossoming friendships, and the best hotdog food truck in D.C.
This summer I traded Austin’s triple digit temperatures for Washington, D.C.’s swampy humidity. Regardless of the fact that I constantly looked like I just stepped out of the shower, I had an amazing time on the East Coast. I ate endless amounts of shellfish, admired the different kinds of architecture as I walked down the streets, and interned with the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution. This picture is of me in front of the NMAH, eating the first of many hotdogs I would buy that summer from the food truck on Constitution Ave.
During my curatorial internship I worked with Dr. Sam Vong — a history professor at UT Austin and the curator of Asian Pacific American History at the NMAH — on his APA Women’s Labor History project. Dr. Vong started this project to expand the APA History collection and make women’s narratives more central within it. A large part of my responsibilities was conducting research on Southeast Asian refugee women and their industries in the U.S. I also contacted some of these communities in Seattle, Houston, and Long Beach to learn more about their histories, types of industries, and their communities. Lastly, I was in charge of cutting cake (and eating it).
When working on the APA Women’s History project, I particularly enjoyed learning about the community of Hmong floral farmers in Seattle who sold their flowers at the Pike Place Market. Large groups of Hmong immigrants arrived in the 1970’s and 1980’s as refugees and made a living, built communities, and raised their families around floral farming. Today, second generation Hmong Americans continue to run their family farms and sell at farmers markets around Washington. However, my fondest memories from the internship had to do with the friendships I made with other Asian Americans also interning there. Spending time with them really reminded me of the importance of finding community in big institutions. We bonded over lots (and I mean lots) of food, conversations about our families and identities, and even went to see The Farewell together. So many tears were shed and tissues passed around.
When I wasn’t at the internship I was out exploring other museums, trying out different food and drink spots, watching live music, and conducting my own research at the Library of Congress. I wasn’t quite sure where to start at the LOC, largely because I didn’t think they would have anything specific to Filipino women in Chicago. I’m thrilled to say, however, that I was mistaken. The Main Reading Room and Asian Reading Room had a number of documents specific to Filipinos in Chicago, such as resource guides, pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals. I found a few newspapers published in Chicago by Filipino immigrants as early as the 1940’s. Before my trips to the LOC, I had never seen documents like these that actually showed representations of Filipinos in Illinois. This gave me another exciting angle to study Fil-Am women in Chicago.
Here is a picture I took of the Philippine Quarterly from 1943 and published in Chicago. I also found out that in the early 1950’s, the Philippine Quarterly began printing in Manila in addition to Chicago. In one issue of the Philippine Quarterly published in Manila, I came across an essay written by Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil called “The Filipino Woman.” This essay was the only piece that I came across in the PQ that solely focused on Filipina women. The essay was first published in a 1952 printing of the Philippine Quarterly, and would eventually become Guerrero-Nakpil’s most recognized works. In the introduction to her book of essays, Woman Enough, she talks about a white American journalist who took parts of her essay and republished it as his own in the U.S.
My summer in D.C. was such a rewarding time. I got the chance to experience a new aspect of doing Asian Pacific American history in the museum context, make new professional and social connections, and discover exciting archival records that I would have never imagined working with before. I hope I can get back to D.C. soon and hit up all of these places again —the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, and of course, my beloved hotdog food truck.