February 13, 2007
Written by C.N.
Is it a sign that the Vietnamese American community is increasingly entering mainstream American society, or that it remains an unusual curiosity? You can judge for yourself — a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum entitled “Exit Saigon, Enter Little Saigon” captures the multifaceted immigration and resettlement experiences of Vietnamese Americans around the country:
It is the first exhibit at the museum and in the nation to highlight the journey of Vietnamese who fled to the U.S. after communists took control of the country. In March, it will leave the S. Dillon Ripley Gallery and head out on a three-year tour across the United States. . . . A sense of this Vietnamese-American community is laid out on the walls of the quiet gallery that is part of the Smithsonian Institution.
There are photos of immigrants being loaded onto helicopters – eyes filled with fear and uncertainty. In grainy film footage, emaciated immigrants wave for help from ships in rough seas – adrift and seeking a home. Next to images of struggle are pictures of happier times in a new land. They show immigrants in well-known American settings: boys in Cub Scout uniforms, families marching in Fourth of July parades and a man in a cowboy hat waving an American flag.
It also highlights the sense of tension that can exist as younger generations are raised in a culture distinctly different from that of those who came before them. The exhibit showcases barriers such as language and the outside influences of a foreign culture.
Kudos to Prof. Vu Pham, professor and research fellow at UC Irvine, for curating the piece, and to all those who helped to support and sponsor its creation. However the exhibit is framed, I think it’s great that people now have the opportunity to learn more about our community, history, and experiences, which is always a positive step for Vietnamese Americans and American society in general.
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Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Vietnamese American Exhibit at Smithsonian" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/02/vietnamese-american-exhibit-at-smithsonian/> ().
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