With 45 boxes of papers, UCSB hopes to keep a legacy alive.
UCSB’s California Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA) has recently acquired an extensive collection of the work of Frank Chin, one of America’s best known Asian-American authors. The collection includes research, letters, unpublished works and manuscripts.
A California native, Chin is the author of numerous works of literature, including essays, novels and short stories. He is perhaps best known, however, for his plays. “The Chickencoop Chinaman” was the first play authored by an Asian-American to be produced on a New York stage.
“Frank Chin is a luminary in Asian-American cultural arts,” CEMA Director Sal Guerena said. “He was a pioneer in a number of areas, in terms of being a writer, a dramatist and a social activist.”
Chin attended the University of California at Berkeley and eventually received his bachelor’s degree from UCSB. He went on to help organize the Combined Asian American Resources Project, with offices in Seattle and San Francisco, and in 1972 founded the Asian American Theater Workshop in San Francisco.
“Frank Chin is the most influential Asian-American writer and dramatist in the country,” Guerena said. “That alone makes this an indispensable collection that people will want to consult.”
His research, manuscripts, unpublished works and other papers are now a part of CEMA and the UCSB library’s special collections. With CEMA’s acquisition of the Chin papers comes the opportunity for public access to the historical collection.
“Overall, this acquisition is a tremendous achievement for the university, because it is supporting and validating the importance of vibrant, groundbreaking writing,” Asian American studies Professor Kip Fulbeck said.
The daunting task that lies ahead for Guerena and other CEMA employees is the inventory and organization of the rather large collection. Parts of the collection, however, will be made available to scholars in the near future, even before it is fully processed.
“We want to be able to make this a dynamic collection that is available and accessible to everyone, including undergraduate students and members of the community at large – cultural artists as well as historians and scholars who are interested in these kinds of collections,” Guerena said.
Guerena would like the Chin papers to draw not only distinguished faculty from other universities but also students involved at all levels of education in the social sciences and humanities. CEMA is also looking for ways to introduce primary sources like those contained in the Chin collection to children and teachers in public schools.
Guerena hopes that the public access that comes with CEMA’s acquisition will not only allow the Chin papers to be preserved, but will also ensure that the portion of Asian-American history that they represent is not lost.
“Our memories fade, and when that happens we lose a lot of important history. We lose a legacy,” Guerena said. “It’s so vitally important to be able to rescue ethnic cultural history before it’s gone.”