Boston’s Chinatown is home to many community-oriented cultural and activist organizations, each with their own rich history, and each stewarding a different piece of neighborhood history. These organizations, along with many longtime neighborhood residents, hold a wealth of historical collections of photographs, newsletters, flyers, recorded interviews, maps, meeting minutes, and more. In addition, many area libraries, archives, and museums host collections pertaining to Chinatown’s history. This abundance of materials can enrich our understanding of this neighborhood’s history, but with records spread across so many collections, it can be difficult to know where and how to begin a research project.
The Boston Research Center at the Northeastern University Library, in partnership with the Boston Public Library, recently began an inventory of historical collections pertaining to Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood. This project aims to identify collections housed by institutional repositories, local organizations and businesses, and individual community members.
This inventory project was designed in collaboration with community partners including the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Pao Arts Center, Chinese Historical Society of New England, the Chinatown Community Land Trust, the Chinatown Branch of the Boston Public Library, the Friends of the Chinatown Library, researcher and author Dr. Michael Liu, and others. In a series of planning meetings, our partners cited concerns that neighborhood historical materials are scattered throughout the city, some accessible, many more hidden. They further advised us that community members looking to learn more about their neighborhood history would benefit from a publicly accessible database linking relevant collections; this would serve as a launching point for neighborhood research. These discussions also revealed that such an inventory could: contribute information to ongoing community projects, such as an interactive map about Chinatown’s immigration history; identify items in need of preservation support; and establish partnerships for future collaborative efforts, including digitization projects.
With these concerns and desires in mind, we worked with our community advisors to develop a survey, which has been made available in simplified and traditional Chinese script, as well as in English.
We invite you to respond to this survey using the links below. Thank you for sharing your insights; your responses will help Boston residents gain a deeper understanding of our city’s history.
If you would like to contact us directly, you can do so at email@example.com or 781.202.6476.