Objects of Affection: About

The images and stories featured in “Objects of Affection” are from a community-driven digitization project founded by Ethnic Studies Professor Grace Yeh. In 2012, Dr. Yeh embarked on an ambitious initiative to digitize the personal records of local families from underrepresented communities and make them publicly available online.

Her Re/Collecting Project (Re/Co for short) is part of a national and global archival renaissance to push cultural objects out from under the stewardship of academic institutions and museums and into the public domain.

The demographics of the region may not readily suggest the importance of diverse communities here. From indigenous peoples to immigrant settlers and transient workers, this region is shaped as much by those communities that have remained as those that have been displaced or forgotten. In a shift from the traditional archival paradigm, the Re/Co project exists entirely and solely online. The collections are community-created and, in a sense, community-curated.

Working with a small cadre of Cal Poly students, faculty, and staff, all armed with laptops, scanners, and digital video cameras, Dr. Yeh has orchestrated “field collecting days,” and embedded herself in the coastal communities of Japanese and Filipino populations to document their collective memories. These digitized images, documents, stories, and mementos generally cannot be found in any public repositories or archives. Instead, they reside with individuals—in their family albums, in their attics or garages, and in their memories.

To collect these stories and story materials, the Re/Co field collectors interviewed individuals and families, and digitized their photos and documents on the spot.

The project does not ask for any donations of physical objects—only permission to digitize and make those images publicly available. Their work includes an outreach component to also provide information on how to best preserve family papers and photographs for future generations to appreciate.

By digitizing these materials, and making historically significant materials and stories available, the Re/Co project hopes to encourage greater research and understanding of the region and its communities.