Hidden Histories: Past Programs

December 18, 2021

Pendleton’s Early Chinese Community: Underground Tunnel Myth vs. Above-Ground History

With Priscilla Wegars and Renae Campbell

Since at least the 1980s, tourism, media depictions, and even well-known works of fiction have promoted the idea that nineteenth-century Chinese immigrants built and occupied an extensive tunnel network under the city of Pendleton, Oregon, and in many other locations throughout the American West. In this program, Priscilla Wegars, Ph.D., and Renae Campbell, M.A., explore these “Chinese tunnel” rumors and compare those in Pendleton with the historical record of Pendleton’s Chinese community.


October 30, 2021

Deconstructing the Astorian Chinese Experience

With Dr. Chelsea K. Vaughn, Liisa Penner, and Suenn Ho

In 1870, Astoria had thirteen Chinese residents. A decade later, that number had grown to 1,208 in Astoria proper, with an additional 924 individuals in what was then described as “Upper Astoria,” at the east end of town. Countywide, there were 2,317 residents of Chinese descent, accounting for a full one-third of Clatsop County’s population. The recruitment of laborers to work in the fish canneries accounted for a majority of this growth, but this period also saw an influx of Chinese merchants, whose businesses would cater to both the local Chinese community as well as the broader population of Astoria.

Increased mechanization within the canneries combined with exclusionary laws would greatly reduce the number of Chinese laborers living in Astoria by century’s end, and in the years that followed, the full scope of this history would be minimized and the poor treatment experienced by many in the community would be obscured. For our panel, we will look at this larger history, question what it means for this history to be deliberately forgotten, and examine the experiences of the small Chinese American community that remained.

For more information, viewers can contact Liisa Penner at archivist@astoriamuseums.org, and/or Suenn Ho at suennho@resolvearchitecture.com.


September 18, 2021

The Dalles Chinatown: Remembering a Community

With Jacqueline Cheung and Eric Gleason

Using maps, newspaper articles, photographs, and National Archives documents, Cheung and Gleason will explore the early development of the Dalles and the formation of its Chinatown in the 19th century. This historical documentation, along with the archaeological excavations of Wing Hong Hai Company Store, help reveal the everyday lives of the merchants and their families who once lived in The Dalles Chinatown. Although abandoned for more than 80 years, there are still many stories their former home can tell.


August 21, 2021

Kam Wah Chung & Co. A “Golden Chinese Outpost” Heritage Site for Oregon State Parks

With Don Merritt, Dr. Chuimei Ho, and Dr. Bennet Bronson

Don Merritt, Museum Curator for the Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site, opens the program with a virtual tour of the Museum. Originally established as a trading post in the 1870s, Kam Wah Chung & Co. was purchased by immigrants Lung On and Ing “Doc” Hay in 1888, who used the building as a Chinese medical clinic, general store, community center and residence until 1940. Scholars Chuimei Ho and Bennett Bronson then follow with the fascinating history of John Day Chinatown’s two Taoist temples, whose last remaining shrine is now housed at Kam Wah Chung and is dedicated to Suijing Bo, the “Pacifying Duke,” a deified mortal who once lived in Taishan County, west of Hong Kong. Although far less famous than the God of War and the Goddess of Mercy, the Duke came to be widely venerated in the western United States, with temples dedicated to him in Oregon, Idaho, and California.


July 17, 2021

Of Woks and Men: Chinese Mining Camp Cooking in Eastern Oregon

With Don Hann, Katee Withee, and Jocelyn Lee

Large numbers of Chinese miners once worked in the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon from the 1860s through the first decade of the 20th century, often in companies as partners who split their profits based on the amount of capital, expertise and labor each provided. One important partner was the company cook, who procured and prepared food for the group. They used traditional Chinese cooking and gardening techniques, some evidence of which remains in the archaeological record at their former camps. Presenters Hann, Withee, and Lee provide an overview of historic Chinese placer gold mining, discuss recent excavations at Chinese mining sites on the Malheur National Forest, and give the results of replication experiments.


June 19, 2021

Picturing the Past: Using Archaeology and the Arts to Highlight Chinese Heritage in Oregon and Beyond

With Chelsea Rose, Jessica Shi and Barre Fong

Using Jacksonville, Oregon, as a case study, this program features a presentation of its archaeology and history, and a discussion highlighting the challenges, opportunities, and importance of researching and documenting the stories of early Chinese Americans; including the ways in which archaeological data and primary documents can be used to help understand community history, inform media and the arts, promote cross-discipline collaboration, improve access to primary research, and the importance of community involvement and investment in archaeological investigations into the Chinese diaspora in Oregon.


May 22, 2021

New Light on Portland’s Old and New Chinatowns: 1851-1950

With Dr. Jacqueline Peterson-Loomis, Bertha Saiget, and Norman Locke

Historian Dr. Jacqueline Peterson-Loomis provides an interpretive walkthrough of PCM’s permanent exhibition, Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland’s Historic Chinatowns. She is followed by personal recollections of New Chinatown from 1920-1950 by Chinese American elders Bertha Lee Saiget and Norman Locke and a dialogue between the presenters about the immigrant experience, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and anti-Asian racism in America today.


April 24, 2021

Salem’s Early Chinese Community and Renewed Qing Ming Festival

With Kimberli Fitzgerald, Kylie Pine, Myron Lee, and Juwen Zhan

The program features new work being done in the Salem community to uncover the long and rich history of its early Chinese American residents. Kimberli Fitzgerald, City of Salem Historic Preservation Program Manager, provides a summary of the excavation of the Chinese Shrine at Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery & Salem’s renewed Qing Ming celebration. Willamette Heritage Center Curator and Collections Manager Kylie Pine shares some of the documents, maps and photos from the museum’s collections that are helping expand our understanding of Salem’s Historical Chinatown(s). Panelists Myron Lee and Juwen Zhang discuss Salem’s connection to China by sharing history of early immigrants as well as discussing more recent immigrants and events related to Salem’s Asian Americans.


April 10, 2021

Making Ties: The Cangdong Village Project

With Barre Fong and Laura Ng

Between the 1850s and 1940s, more than 2.5 million people left China’s Pearl River Delta region, creating new communities around the world. Their cultural and economic influences also transformed their home villages. The Cangdong Village Project was developed to investigate how daily life changed in migrant’s home villages during and after migration. “Making Ties: The Cangdong Village Project” is a film that documents the 2016-2018 archaeological investigations at Cangdong, a 700-year old village in Kaiping County, Guangdong Province, China, that is part of the Xie (Dea/Der/Tse) clan. The Cangdong Village Project is a joint undertaking of the Stanford Archaeology Center, the Guangdong Qiaoxiang Cultural Research Center at Wuyi University, and the Guangdong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology.