Asian Pacific Americans have a rich, deep-rooted history in the United States, spanning from the first immigrants in the 1800s to the multi-ethnic communities found today. Through a Smithsonian traveling display of 30 banners of poignant text, photographs, and art, I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story takes a sweeping look at how Asian Pacific Americans have shaped and been shaped by the course of our nation’s history.
For decades, “Asian in America” was not the same as “Asian American.” While the earliest immigrants struggled to be legally recognized as citizens, their descendants fought to be seen as “true” Americans. Additionally, Asian Pacific Americans have played key roles in some of the nation’s most important moments—from the long stretches of the Transcontinental Railroad to the toughest battles of World War II to the streets of Oakland to Washington D.C. Alongside some of history’s greatest names, they campaigned for civil rights and social justice—both for themselves and others.
Since the 1960s, and subsequent new waves of immigration, the demographic makeup of America and its cultural landscape has dramatically changed. I Want the Wide American Earth extends beyond the often tumultuous past and marks the unique challenges that exist in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society. As one of the fastest growing groups in the nation, Asian Pacific Americans continue to lead the way to the future, serving as pioneers in numerous fields as diverse as fashion design, sports, and science.
To complement this banner exhibition, the Japanese American National Museum will display key artifacts from its permanent collection that will give additional perspective to the Asian Pacific American experience. Other exhibition features include Our American Voice—a two-person show exploring the diverse stories of Asian Pacific Americans held every Saturday in the gallery; a free 14-page graphic narrative of the Asian Pacific American story; and a mobile tour app featuring interviews with prominent Asian Pacific Americans.
I Want the Wide American Earth: An Asian Pacific American Story was created by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and curated by Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center Initiative Coordinator Lawrence-Minh Bùi Davis. The exhibition is supported by a generous grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and is a collaborative initiative with Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).
Public Programs Sponsors:
The Smithsonian Community Grant program, funded by MetLife Foundation, is a proud sponsor of these public programs.