The Southeast Asian Digital Archive (SEADA) Oral History Project was launched at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Southeast Asian Digital Archive in the summer of 2019. The purpose of SEADA Oral History Project is to collect, preserve, and share personal accounts from Southeast Asians living in the Greater Lowell, Massachusetts, area. The goal is to preserve these stories and make them accessible to younger generations of Southeast Asian American; to researchers in Southeast Asian American studies; to teachers and students of all backgrounds; and to the general public. Now more than ever, the stories of Southeast Asian refugees – of their struggles and successes, of their diverse histories – are necessary to understanding the history of Lowell and of the US.
Currently, the oral history project mainly includes interviews with Southeast Asians who arrived in the Greater Lowell, Massachusetts, area during 1970-1990s. To a smaller extent, the project also includes Southeast Asians and individuals who worked with Southeast Asian communities covering the geographical region of Massachusetts.
We are especially interested in stories of how Southeast Asians moved into the Greater Lowell area, of how individuals and families orientated themselves to and transformed the city, and how they went about living their lives, making homes, creating families, and building communities.
Oral history interviews are actively sought on the following areas:
- Southeast Asian Elders: We hope to preserve the stories of Southeast Asian American elders while there is still time. Questions for elders include: What life was like for them in the country of origin, in transit (in refugee camps and relocation centers), and in arriving in the US? What were their struggles and triumphs? What are their stories and traditions to pass on, and what do they hope to see for future generations?
- Health: Access to effective, culturally-responsive health care was and continues to be one of the biggest challenges for Southeast Asian community members. This project seeks to document the stories of those who worked to improve health care for Southeast Asian refugee communities from the 1980s to today, as well as the stories of community members who navigated health care systems.
- Justice system: This project seeks to highlight the voices and viewpoints of Southeast Asian community members involved with the judicial system, particularly in the 1980s to 2000s, as well as those who worked with them.
- Education: This project seeks to highlight the voices and viewpoints of Southeast Asians in navigating primary and secondary education, particularly in the 1980s through the 2000s. This project seeks to record the stories of students, families, teachers, and other educational professionals.
- Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival: Since the first water festival in 1996, the Lowell Southeast Asian Water Festival has celebrated the importance of water and boats to Khmer, Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese cultures. This oral history project seeks to document the history of this important community cultural event and those who have worked to make it happen for over 23 years.