Dear X


The University of Washington has received a grant from the Ford Foundation for a project aimed at developing new curricular activities involving Southeast Asian-American students in learning about their histories and communities in Southeast Asia and locally.  Entitled Engaging Southeast Asian American Pluralism in Seattle, the project is a collaboration between the Southeast Asian Studies Center, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and the University of Washington Libraries.  Besides attempting to develop new strategies for teaching about Southeast Asia, the project hopes to promote understanding between and among the various Southeast Asian communities in the Seattle area by documenting their stories through recorded interviews.


One aspect of the new pedagogical dimensions envisaged by the grant involves service learning in the form of creative oral history projects that will connect students with the local Southeast Asian American communities in Seattle and in Southeast Asia.  These projects will both serve as the basis of class discussion and mutual learning, and as a more permanent record of the experiences of the Southeast Asian communities of the region, through exhibits, web-based features and in the creation of a permanent archive in the University of Washington Libraries’ Special Collections.  Some narratives may also be shared with the Burke Museum and/or the Wing Luke Asian Museum.


We plan to use this collaboration between the development of curriculum activities that encourage community engagement and the University of Washington Libraries to bring into the custody of the Libraries a significant body of photographs, artifacts, documents and oral history interviews that document the Southeast Asian experience in the greater Seattle area.  It is in connection with this effort that I am writing to you, to request that you record an oral history interview for the project’s collection with one of the participating undergraduates enrolled in the classes sponsored by the project.


Let me express the University of Washington’s gratitude in advance, and to explain to you how we intend to use the narrative you provide.  We hope to use your recorded interview in classroom discussion, and on the Simpson Center for the Humanities web site for the Engaging Southeast Asian American Pluralism in Seattle project.  Your narrative may be used to help us develop programs, exhibits, and publications.  The Engaging Southeast Asian American Pluralism in Seattle  interviews may also be made available to general researchers in the Libraries’ Special Collections, and could be used in various ways:  they may be consulted to prepare newspaper articles, student papers and academic books, to produce television and radio documentaries and to develop content for the Internet. 


Your oral history interview will be a tape-recorded/video-recorded conversation between you and your interviewer that you both agree to share with researchers.  For that reason, we will ask you both to sign an agreement which allows the University of Washington to use the information on these tapes for educational purposes, and to make your interview available to the public.  We encourage you to be frank and comprehensive – this is an opportunity to be reflective about your life and times, for the distant future.  You may, if you wish, “seal” parts of your interview from public access for a period of time, so that controversial topics can be explored for future research but be unavailable in the near term.  Please discuss this agreement with the student interviewer, and feel free to telephone or email the project Directors at the University of Washington with any questions or concerns that you might have. 


You will have the opportunity to meet with the student interviewer before your interview, to discuss any concerns, suggestions or questions you might have, and to plan your interview together.


We also ask you to consider whether you think there is someone else you would recommend we interview, who can speak more about the topics you have raised?  


Our Pacific Northwest region has a long and rich history, much of it intimately connected to the communities of Southeast Asia.  As these communities, both here in the Seattle area and in the countries of Southeast Asia, change through time we need everyone's memories and perspectives to help us reflect accurately on the meaning of these changes. Your experience is unique, and offers insight and understanding that we could gain in no other way.  Without your memories, our project would be incomplete.


Thank you so much for helping us to better understand the Southeast Asian community experience in Seattle and Puget Sound. We very much hope that you will be willing to share your remarkable experience and accomplishments with us. 


Very truly yours,