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Sacramento State News - California State University, Sacramento February 5, 2007

University Library receives treasure
trove of Southeast Asian cultural history

Acquisitions Librarian Jennifer Ware inspects a musical instrument from Thailand, part of the Refugee Educators’ Network (REN) gift to the library.
Acquisitions Librarian Jennifer Ware inspects a musical instrument from Thailand, part of the Refugee Educators’ Network (REN) gift to the library.

The Sacramento State Library has strengthened its cultural and historical resources with a significant gift from the Refugee Educators’ Network (REN). More than 6,000 items including books, journals, film, clothing and other memorabilia were donated, offering a breadth of cultural and historical reference materials not previously available at the University.

The collection includes material from the Armenian, Cambodian (Khmer), Chinese, Hmong, Karen, Korean, Lahu, Lao, Mien, Russian, Thai, Ukrainian and Vietnamese cultures. Among these items are:

  • The only grammar book written for the Hmong language (Mottin), donated by a friend of the missionary linguist who wrote it in the 1970s.
  • A Hmong skirt and jacket, donated by a man who was in Laos during the secret war (1964), and another skirt and jacket made by refugees in a Thai camp (1984).
  • CIA training films from the 1960s, demonstrating to Hmong villagers how to use an M-16 rifle (released under the Freedom of Information Act).
Rosalind Van Auker, education and social science librarian, pointed out some other unusual gems in the collection. “I am particularly excited about the many volumes of folktales and fairy tales from a variety of different cultures. For example, our juvenile collection already contained many versions of the Cinderella tale, but now we have even more. Some versions included in the gift are: Angkat: The Cambodian Cinderella, The Korean Cinderella, Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, and Jouanah: A Hmong Cinderella (in both English and Hmong).”

The collection was compiled over a 20 year period by the Southeast Asia Community Resource Center and its director Judy Lewis.  The Center was a project of REN and was initiated as a resource for educators of Southeast Asian students and community members in the greater Sacramento region.

The Resource Center, housed in Rancho Cordova, was used widely by educators and students to learn more about the backgrounds, languages and
cultures of refugees and immigrants, primarily from Southeast Asia. It closed in 2002. Rather than let the collection be lost or dispersed, Lewis contacted the Sacramento State Library on behalf of the REN board to see if there was an interest in the collection.

“We are enormously pleased that the collection came to the Sac State Library,” stated Tamara Trujillo, acting library director. “We have much demand for materials in these subject areas and acquiring this gift has allowed the library to offer a depth of resources for study and research to students and faculty that would otherwise not have been possible. Processing of the books has begun and is ongoing, and some 700 titles have already been catalogued and are available for check-out.”

“I think it is a major gift to the University,” says Tim Fong, director of Asian American Studies. “There are not very many Southeast Asian collections around. The only other one I know of that is of significant size is at UC Irvine, and so there is nothing like it in Northern California.

“Students and faculty not only in ethnic and Asian American studies, but also other disciplines such as education, social work, anthropology and history will use this collection. It is a really rich and valuable resource. It contains material that is unique, such as periodicals and books that are no longer in print, as well as photographs, videos, textiles and artworks not only of scholarly but of cultural value. My hope is that it can be digitized and used very much like the Japanese American Archival Collection.”

For more information contact the Library at (916) 278-5679. For media requests, contact the Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.

 

 

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