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Virginia Tech grad students are instrumental in preserving history of Arlington’s ‘Little Saigon’ in new illustrated booklet

Larissa LaCour

In 2014, a Virginia Tech urban affairs and planning studio project entitled Echoes of Little Saigon focused on preserving the cultural history of the Vietnamese community in Clarendon, a thriving commercial hub for newly-arrived refugees from South Vietnam following the fall of Saigon in 1975.

For this collaboration with the Arlington County Historic Preservation Program and Arlington Public Library Center for Local History, graduate students Jacqueline Canales, Andrea Dono, Aaron Frank, Carlin Tacey, and Judd Ullom conducted a considerable amount of research that included interviews with local immigrants. (Ullom extended his commitment to the Echoes of Little Saigon for his capstone project, creating five documentary films and a walking tour with QR stickers that highlight this powerful story in the modern-day Clarendon neighborhood. For this work, Ullom won the 2016 Holzheimer Memorial Student Scholarship for the Economic Development Division of the American Planning Association earlier this year.)

The students’ studio work formed a critical aspect of the research for a fully illustrated booklet, also titled Echoes of Little Saigon, documenting the history and significance of the arrival of Vietnamese immigrants to Arlington County. The booklet was publicly unveiled at the recent Mid-Autumn Festival (Tet Trung Thu) in Arlington by author Kim A. O’Connell -- the daughter of a Vietnamese immigrant – who also provided an overview and slideshow during the event. The booklet includes excerpts from several of the oral histories collected by the students.

O’Connell offered support throughout the Virginia Tech students’ studio project, attended their presentation to Arlington County representatives, and acknowledged their contributions in the booklet. “The effort to commemorate and preserve the history and experiences of Vietnamese immigrants in Virginia is ongoing,” O’Connell said, “and would not be possible without all the commitment, professionalism, and empathy that the Virginia Tech students brought to this important work.”

The Echoes of Little Saigon booklet, funded in part by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, is illustrated by award-winning artist Minh D. Uong.

Echoes of Little Saigon can be accessed in its entirety here. A free copy of the booklet is also available at the Center for Local History at the Arlington Public Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, during business hours.

“It is exciting that the high quality of the students’ work has been so fully recognized,” said Elizabeth Morton, associate professor of practice at the School of Public and International Affairs and director of the studio.

“Helping Arlington preserve this important chapter of its cultural history is a great example of how Virginia Tech students can make a real contribution to the community,” Morton said. Morton and master’s students in urban affairs and planning will continue to work with Arlington County on ways to document and promote diverse cultural heritage in an upcoming urban design studio in spring 2017.

Posted November 02, 2016