Archives of Empowerment


Tucked between an electronics store and an employment agency in LA’s Chinatown is the wonderful, Studio for Southern California History, a community based cultural history museum, which focuses on overlooked histories/stories of the region. I first had the good fortune to visit the museum as part of the Imagining America conference in October 2008, when, as part of the event, the Studio‘s Director, Sharon Sekhon, took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood.

But I truly knew this was my kind of archive when I saw the website connected to the space borrowed a quotation from Marcel Proust:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”  The Studio for Southern California History is one of my favorite places to visit in LA as it is all about rethinking and reshaping the lenses with which we use to see, study, and understand our past.   Our “lenses” of history now include previously hidden, marginalized, or ignored perspectives on events as well as new ways or formats for seeing.    The Studio is a counter history of Southern California as well as an exploration in counter historical writings — using a  variety of media: photos, texts, video, audio, and assorted installation/interactive objects (my favorite being a pinball machine featuring LA landmarks!).  
I will be having more on the Studio in an upcoming podcast with Sharon Sekhon.   Sharon is truly an innovator who brings interactive archives, historical writing, and community engagement together through the Studio.   Stay tuned for our dialogue on another exciting model for the “archive for the future.”   Below is an image from the Studio’s current exhibit: Signs of Our Times.

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