Drawing of opium pipe

AACC artifact shelves

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Asian American Comparative Collection:

Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC)
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 1111
Moscow, Idaho 83844-1111 USA
Priscilla Wegars, Ph.D., Volunteer Curator

Renae Campbell, M.A., RPA, Research Assistant


In recent years there has been an increase in studies of people of Asian ancestry, primarily Chinese and Japanese, who immigrated to the West during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In Idaho in particular, this movement of people first took place during the Territorial and early Statehood periods, and later through World War II when Japanese Americans were held in internment (Kooskia) and incarceration/concentration (Minidoka) camps here. Archaeological excavations, conducted on a variety of sites in Idaho and elsewhere, have recovered everyday objects that were made in China and Japan. The need to understand these artifacts, their uses, and the people who owned them led to the establishment, in 1982, of the Asian American Comparative Collection (AACC), one of the first celebrations of ethnic and cultural diversity on the University of Idaho campus.

Priscilla Wegars, AACC volunteer curator

                                          AACC volunteer curator Priscilla Wegars

The Collection

Since its founding, the AACC's main objective has been to obtain an actual example, or where that is not possible, a photograph, of every representative object of Asian manufacture that has been, or is likely to be, found in an archaeological or museum context in the western United States and elsewhere. Excavators who uncover fragments of Asian objects can compare them with whole examples in the AACC to identify what they have found. The major artifact classes now represented include food and beverage containers, table ceramics, opium smoking paraphernalia, medicinal paraphernalia, gambling-related items, and other personal and domestic objects.

AACC artifact shelves

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One significant assemblage includes many examples of Chinese restaurant wares from the Berkeley, California, firm of F. S. Louie & Co. Another growing collection contains examples of past and present anti-Asian racism, stereotypes, and propaganda. The AACC also houses the Steven Martin Collection of Opium-Smoking Antiques, donated by Steven Martin before his untimely death in 2015.

The artifacts in the AACC have been acquired through excavation, purchase, or donations from interested persons. Bibliographical materials, such as books and articles, have been purchased or donated, and form the nucleus of a reference library emphasizing site reports, artifact identification, and historical documentation. Several thousand images are available for study. Unlike museum objects, the AACC artifacts provide a "hands on" approach to understanding Asian historical archaeology in a time period that encompasses the early 1860s through the mid-1960s.

 AACC Volunteer
        Claire Chin
                                            AACC volunteer Claire Chin

AACC assistant Nina Blumenfeld
                                                                                      AACC assistant Nina Blumenfeld                                       

Scholarly and Public Interest

The function of the AACC is to serve as a clearinghouse of information for individuals conducting research. The Collection is also shared with community and educational groups to stir their interest in Asian American studies.

Undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members, employees of government agencies and private firms, museum curators, and public school students have studied the Collection to answer a broad range of questions. Researchers have come from many parts of the United States as well as from Canada, Australia, Japan, China, and Korea.

Researcher Ann Sharley
       Researcher Ann Sharley, Goucher College, at the AACC

We Value Your Input!

If you have corrections to this Web site, or suggestions for topics that should be included, please let us know.

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March 2016/intro.htm/pwegars@uidaho.edu