10 weeks have passed. Each day here at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program has been full of knowledge, inspiration, and good company. Whether I was researching APA graphic novels, assisting the curator of HomeSpun, exploring the nooks and crannies of museums, or having lunch with officemates, I felt fortunate in every moment to be constantly learning and oftentimes laughing.
I engaged with the world of APA graphic literature with little more than a curiosity. After many trips to the hidden door of the Hirshhorn library (it’s camouflaged in a wall of solid blue), countless requests for books via Smithsonian’s Interlibrary Loan process (a researcher’s dream), and an obscene amount of small pink post-it notes, I discovered a sophistication behind APA graphic novels that I did not anticipate. As a visual medium grounded more in icons than realism, APA graphic novels hold great power in deconstructing stereotype and envisioning heroes that represent the APA community.
In addition to my research, I joined the HomeSpun initiative during the transition between curators. I helped Pawan prepare for the baton toss by chasing down unlabeled items in his office and cataloguing them. When Masum arrived, I corralled the images and objects of every exhibit subcategory into clearly labeled (and MacGyvered) containers. Besides investigating the occasional HomeSpun item-without-source-information, I helped Masum add a stronger visual arts element to the upcoming Beyond Bollywood exhibit. I searched for artists and photographers who depicted various aspects of the Indian American experience, hoping to find something visually interesting that would still speak volumes about Indian Americans. Along the way, I gained skills and knowledge in image research—I attended a SITES seminar on image licensing, and learned ways to search for images under the public domain to save costs.
Being a part of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program has been the ultimate learning experience. On behind-the-scene tours I have talked to a Holocaust survivor, seen a giant squid eye, and touched a clouded leopard’s soft pelt. I have been able to witness the incredible thought processes that fuel museum exhibitions from concept to design to construction. Just by being around the incredible staff and interns here I have grown as a professional and a scholar. But most of all I have been inspired by the excitement and sheer brainpower behind all the work being done in this office. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be an intern here, and I cannot wait until I return to D.C. in 2013 to see what everyone at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program is up to then!