Skip to Main Content

Oregon Multicultural Archives: Asian American People and Culture

Asian American History in Oregon

#StopAsianHate Initiative

  • Please take a moment to visit the linktree to learn more about the collaborators in this initiative and for more ways to support the AAPI community.
  • Oregon Rises Above Hate ~ Oregon Rises Above Hate is a coalition of people and organizations who seek to give voice to AANHPI communities.

History of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in Oregon, via entries in The Oregon Encyclopedia:

Portland is also home to two museums commemorating the history of Asian Americans in Oregon: the Japanese American Museum of Oregon and the Portland Chinatown Museum

Manuscript, Photograph, and Oral History Collections

Oregon Chinese Disinterment Documents: Documents pertaining to the 1948-1949 disinterment of hundreds of Chinese immigrants’ remains from cemeteries throughout Oregon.

IRCO's Asian Family Center:

  • The Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) Asian Family Center (AFC) Records document programs, activities, and events sponsored by the AFC and its partnership with a multitude of organizations in the Portland-Metro area as well as Multnomah and Washington Counties. The collection's finding aid is available online: IRCO Asian Family Center Records, 1981-2014
  • Oral history interviews of staff and board members at Portland's IRCO AFC, an organization that provides culturally specific programming for Portland’s Asian and Pacific Islander communities. The collection's finding aid is available online Asian Family Center Oral History Collection Finding Aid

Japanese American Association of Lane County, Oregon, Oral History Digital Collection: Oral history interviews of Japanese Americans living in Eugene, Oregon and the vicinity. Several include accounts of life in the WWII internment camps. Online Collection Guide

Edith Yang Papers: The Edith Yang Papers consist of materials generated and collected by Edith Yang. In 1954, Yang, as a Chinese-American Woman, was the first woman of color to be licensed as an architect in Oregon. Yang predominantly worked within Benton County, Oregon, with the majority of her work taking place within Corvallis and the Oregon State University campus. The collection documents her architectural work in four areas: commercial, residential, and OSU, as well as World War II-related projects. Also included are biographical and other materials reflecting Yang's community engagement within the Corvallis community.

Indian-Americans in Corvallis, Oregon Oral History Collection, 2016: The Indian-Americans in Corvallis, Oregon Oral History Collection is a set of six interviews featuring ten members of the Indian-American community in Corvallis.

Te May Ching Papers: Personal papers of OSU crop scientist Ching. The collection covers the years 1944–1988. Dr. Ching is a native of China. The collection includes correspondence, research project records, manuscripts of publications, proposals, papers reviewed, graduate teaching and advising materials, professional organization records, reference cards, and materials pertaining to women faculty at OSU, international education and the Chinese Student Organization.

Ava Milam Clark Papers: Personal papers of OSU dean of home economics Ava Milam (1917–1950). Collection includes letters, photographs and other materials pertaining to international students from Japan, China, and other Pacific rim countries, as well as records of Milam's work in China and Japan.

Richard Y. Morita Papers, 1949-2005 (MSS Morita): The Morita Papers document the academic and research career of Richard Yukio Morita, a marine microbiologist who conducted extensive research on the effects of pressure, low temperature, and available energy on the physiology of marine bacteria. Richard Y. Morita was a faculty member in microbiology and oceanography at Oregon State from 1962 through 1988 and pursued an active research program as a Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Oceanography from 1989 through the 2000s. In 1942, Morita’s family was forced to enter a Japanese internment camp. Morita earned his Ph.D. in Microbiology-Oceanography from the University of California Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 1954 as the first Nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) to graduate.

William H. Maas Scrapbook, 1911-1943 (MSS Maas): William H. Maas Scrapbook. William Maas was born in Michigan in 1880, and lived and worked in Portland until his death in 1943. His scrapbook is comprised of newspaper clippings documenting the career and related activities of Sergeant William Henry Maas of the Portland, Oregon police force between 1911 and 1943. Specifically, the clippings document such topics as notable crimes and fires in and around Portland, scandals within the Portland city police force and government, police force benefits and labor issues, Prohibition-era raids, and the policing of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Some highlights include: clippings relating to the arrest and trial of Minoru Yasui, and other World War II-era clippings; a grouping of clippings that hint at the ways that gender and sexuality were policed at the time; and clippings that document the use of excessive force by police, and police brutality and harassment.

Special Topic: The Japanese American Experience During World War II

The United States War Relocation Authority Reports, 1942-1946: a collection of more than fifty mimeographed reports  detailing the operation of War Relocation Authority (WRA) internment camps used to house Japanese American internees during World War II.

Mildred and Frank Miles Scrapbook of the Santo Tomás Internment Camp, 1942-1947 ~ The Mildred and Frank Miles Scrapbook of the Santo Tomás Internment Camp scrapbook includes documents and ephemera produced at Santo Tomás during the Miles' internment there, as well as materials written about the camp after liberation. Many materials document daily life in the internment camp. The Santo Tomás Internment Camp was created by the Japanese military after occupation of Manila, the capital of the Phillipines. It was located on the campus of the University of Santo Tomás in Manila, and housed over 4,000 internees for nearly the entirety of World War II. A PDF access scan of this item is available upon patron request. For additional information about the collection, see the 2017 OSU Honors College thesis "Internment at Santo Tomas University, a Podcast"

Extension Bulletin Illustrations (P 20)

Extension and Experiment Station Communications (P 120)

  • P120:1234 & 2600 – Barracks-type building formerly part of the Japanese Relocation Center at Tule Lake, California has been moved by Earl W. Mack to his potato farm to be used during the harvest season to hold 10 to 12 workers
  • P120:2362 – Japanese evacuees harvested onion seed in one of Malheur county's big onion seed acreage, 1944
  • P120:2429 – Japanese Americans hoeing beets. About 450 Japanese-Americans from relocation centers were also used in Malheur county this season. They worked mostly for Japanese farmers, though there are some working in the Dale Garrison beet field.
  • P120:2606 – Barracks from Japanese Relocation Center, now furnishing housing for farm labor on Bryant Williams farm. Klamath County, 1947.
  • P120:2608 – House for permanent help, remodeled from former Japanese barracks, on W.M. Kaylor farm near Klamath Falls. House includes four rooms and bath. It measures 20 x 40 feet. 1947.
  • P120:2720 – Japanese-American field worker, Ontario, Oregon, May 1946
  • P120:2721 – Japanese-American workers planting an onion field, Malheur County, May 1946

Oregon Encyclopedia Entries

Oregon Multicultural Communities Research Collection Files

Oregon Multicultural Communities Research Collection (OMCRC):
The OMCRC is an artificial collection containing items of interest about multicultural communities within Oregon State University and to a lesser extent, the city of Corvallis, and the state of Oregon.

Asian Americans in Oregon: Newspaper clippings and article drafts on Japanese-American students at Oregon State College in WWII, their removal from campus, and the 2008 honorary degree ceremony.

Asian Pacific Cultural Center: Information on the opening and operations of the APCC at OSU

Asian Pacific Island American Association (APIAA) of OSU: Leaflet from the early 1990s describing this student organization.

Chinese Students and Scholars Association: Newspaper clippings and brochures pertaining to this OSU student organization.

Ethnic Studies Department: Information on classes offered relevant to Asian Americans offered by the ES Department

Morita, Richard Y.: Extensive biography and vita of Dr. Morita, a long-time Microbiology faculty member at OSU. Dr. Morita is Nisei, and spent time in the Gila Relocation Center during World War II.

World War II: This file includes a copy of an article from the October 1995 Oregon Stater on Japanese-American students at Oregon State College that were sent to internment camps during the war.

OSU's Asian American Community

Histories of OSU Students of Color Campus Tour Guidebook: The stories selected for this booklet showcase the impact and contributions that students of color have had on the OSU campus.

Minorities in the Barometer Digital Collection, 1960-1989: Articles from The Daily Barometer pertaining to multicultural issues and minorities on campus. All articles are organized in chronological order in full-text searchable PDFs. The PDFs are organized by year; each PDF file begins with a Table of Contents listing the article titles and dates for the year.

Asian & Pacific Cultural Center (APCC) Records, 1983-2016 (RG 245): The APCC was established at OSU in 1991 to educate the campus and local community about Asian and Pacific Islander cultures.

Oregon State University APCC oral history interviews: Five 2014 interviews with APCC student staff members. Be sure to also see the Oregon State University Cultural Centers Oral History Collection, 2013-2015

Hmong at OSU: The Hmong at Oregon State University (OSU) Records provide insight into the operations of the Hmong at OSU student organization. This student organization was founded to foster awareness of Hmong culture at OSU, as well as provide social support and skill-building opportunities for members of the organization.

OSU's Japanese American Students During WWII: Blog post with links to various articles and documents pertaining to the effects of the WWII internment policies and the honorary degrees awarded to students in 2008.

Asia University America Program (P 209):  Photographs document the programs, activities, and participants of the Asia University America Program (AUAP) at OSU. The AUAP albums have been digitized: AUAP Albums

Azadi Student Publication, 1947-1953: Azadi is the newsletter of the Oregon State College Chapter of the Hindustan Student's Association of America.  The Chapter was established at Oregon State in 1947 to grow understanding between India and the United States and to support students from India attending Oregon State.

Asian and Pacific Islander Student Groups Digital Display: Images and information regarding the clubs on campus that honor and celebrate Asian Pacific Islander cultures.

Oregon State University Collegiate 4-H Club Records, 1929–1985: Includes records of the LABO – 4-H Exchange, an exchange program with Japanese students, 1972–1982.

Student Affairs (RG 102)

Accession 90:32 – Student organizations (pre-1987)
          Chinese Christian Fellowship
          Friends of Japan
          Indonesian Student Organization
          Japanese Student Organization
          Vietnamese Student Association

Accession 93:074 – Subject files
          Cultural Programming Fund, 1990
          Minority recruiting, 1985–1989

Accession 95:009 – records of the Minority Students Affairs Advisory Council, 1987–88 (includes report on creation of and funding for cultural centers at OSU.)

An oral history interview of Dr. Richard Morita, part of the Voices of Oregon State University Oral History Collection (OH 9).

“Report on the Japanese Situation in Oregon, Investigated for Governor Ben W. Olcott,” August 1920. Valley JV6888 .O7 D2. Also available online from the Oregon State Library.

OSU Historical Collection (P 25)

Gwil Evans (P 82)

  • P82:35 image 589 - Hawaiian freshman hangs leis on dormitory staff, Bob Koehler on left; Oct 14, 1950.
  • P82:36 images 219-220 - Philippine students on home economics broadcast over KOAC; Oct. 14, 1950.
  • P82:36 image 769 - Hawaiian and Alaskan students; Oct. 1949
  • P82:91 image 1637 - Masu Takeda, Japanese student, and Ava B. Milam scholarship winner; Jan. 1954.
  • P82:91 image 1809 - Phi Kappa Phi, a Hawaiian student receives junior honor; Feb. 1955.
  • P82:164, image 2247 Chinese students in forestry at OSC; Dec. 1957

President's Office (P 92)

  • P95:1381 John Byrne and Japanese students, 1993? (5 images)

John Garman (P 95)

Harriet's Collection
2510 – Student Organizations – Hawaiian Club (Hui O Hawaii)

Statewide Resources

Japanese American Museum of Oregon ~ be sure to check out their spring 2021 virtual grand opening ~ "On January 1, 2020, Oregon Nikkei Endowment/Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center changed its name to Japanese American Museum of Oregon. The term "Nikkei" means Japanese emigrants and their descendants. Japanese American Museum of Oregon is a history museum in Portland, charged with the preservation and sharing of the history and culture of the Nikkei community. Formerly known as the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center, the museum opened the doors to its current home in September of 2004 with a permanent exhibit space that highlights Issei immigration and early life in Oregon, Nihonmachi (Japantown), and life after Executive Order 9066, including the Portland Assembly Center and contemporary Nikkei life."

Portland Chinatown Museum ~ "The Portland Chinatown Museum (PCM) is Oregon’s first museum about Chinese American history, art, and culture. Opened to the public in December 2018 in an historic building at NW Third Avenue and Davis Street, the Museum honors Portland Chinatown’s past, celebrates its present, and is helping to create its future. The permanent exhibition gallery features a 2,400 square foot exhibition, Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland’s Historic Chinatown. Two front galleries serve as a venue for the work of contemporary Asian American artists in all media, as a site for storytelling about the immigrant experience, and for exhibitions, lectures, performances, and other public programs. The Portland Chinatown Museum is operated by the Portland Chinatown History Foundation, founded in 2014 by a group of Chinese American elders with deep roots in Portland’s Chinatown. Our mission is to collect, preserve and share the stories, oral histories and artifacts of Portland’s Chinatown as a catalyst for exploring and interpreting the history of past, present and future immigrant experiences."

To learn more about Oregon’s Chinese history, read the special winter 2021 issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly where authors document early Chinese residents’ role in shaping Oregon’s development. The introduction, written by one of the issue’s guest editors, Jennifer Fang, is available to read for free on our website in both English and Chinese. You can also read a blog post on the Oregon Historical Society's Dear Oregon blog written by the issue’s other guest editor, Chelsea Rose, about her experience researching in OHS’s collections in connection to her work with the Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project. Additionally, The Oregon Encyclopedia includes Douglas Lee’s essay, Chinese Americans in Oregon, which offers background on Oregon’s Chinese history before statehood. The articles “Chinese Massacre at Deep Creek” and “Expulsion of Chinese from Oregon City, 1886” offer insights into the violence and discrimination many Chinese immigrants experienced in Oregon. “Myth of Chinese Tunnels in Pendleton” and “Shanghaiing in Portland and the Shanghai Tunnels Myth” provide the facts to debunk stories that many have long thought to be true. Ing Hay, Seid Back, and Lung On were three early leaders of Oregon’s Chinese community — and Hazel Ying Lee made history as the first Chinese-American woman pilot.

Oregon Experience: Massacre at Hells Canyon (Season 11 Episode 1102 | 27m 18s): Chinese immigrants were instrumental in building the West, but they faced unprecedented legalized discrimination and violence. In 1887, a gang of Wallowa County men killed as many a 34 Chinese gold miners along the Snake River. For over a century, the murders were covered up, and no one was held accountable. Today, the massacre at Hells Canyon is finally acknowledged. For more detail see: Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon by R. Gregory Nokes

Oregon Experience: Kam Wah Chung (Season 3 Episode 306 | 29m): In the late 1800s, thousands of Chinese miners came to Eastern Oregon in search of gold. Among them were two men - Ing "Doc" Hay and Lung On - who opened a store and herbal apothecary called Kam Wah Chung. Though originally catering to their fellow Chinese, over time these two men attended to the medical needs of many, becoming highly regarded members of the community.

Oregon Experience: Oregon's Japanese Americans Beyond the Wire (Season 13 Episode 2 | 1h 5m 33s): By the 1920s Oregon had thriving Japanese American communities in Portland and Hood River. Immigrant pioneers managed business, farms and orchards with their American born children. Pearl Harbor would profoundly impact everyone forever. Oregon Experience will explore our region's Japanese American history, their forced incarceration during WWII and the fight for reparations decades later.

Oregon Experience: Vanport (Season 11 Episode 1101 | 59m 53s: )During the early 1940s, Vanport, Oregon was the second largest city in the state. But on a Sunday afternoon in May 1948, it disappeared completely - destroyed by a catastrophic flood.

Oregon Historical Society Blog ~ OHQ on the Road: Connecting Chinese History to Places in Oregon ~ While touring archaeological sites on the Malheur National Forest, Eliza Canty-Jones, editor of the Oregon Historical Quarterly and the Oregon Historical Society’s Chief Program Officer, held an archival bag containing a Chinese medicine vial uncovered at one of the sites and acknowledged that there are more questions than answers about the people who were connected to that place. In this recent blog post on Dear Oregon, she reflects on the “OHQ on the Road” series, held in May and June 2022, which provided opportunities for conversations about the Chinese people whose lives had been integral in shaping local communities in Oregon. Authors who published in OHQ’s Winter 2021 special issue, “Chinese Diaspora in Oregon,” enthusiastically participated in six events across the state, where people gathered in the places where history happened to learn about the past together.

Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project ~ The award-winning Oregon Chinese Diaspora Project (OCDP) is a grassroots partnership between local, state, and federal agencies and organizations that promotes research and education about Oregon’s early Chinese residents. OCDP is embedded in local communities while also reaching statewide audiences through public archaeology projects. The research generated through these projects helps to update and center the history of the Chinese diaspora and Chinese Oregonians in the development of the state.

The Immigrant Story ~ a project to document, narrate and curate stories about immigrants in order to promote empathy and advance an inclusive community.

  • Sally Wong ~ Wong helped establish the APCC, worked at CAPS for 19 years and also helped establish disability services at OSU. Her partner Allen Wong also helped establish the APCC and the graphic design program at OSU. He’s a renowned calligrapher and two of his pieces were donated to the APCC by Sally Wong.