Looking at Asia through Art and Archives

The University of Wyoming Art Museum has (for a few more days) a wonderful exhibition of Cyrus Baldridge’s work during his travels in China.  The exhibit is a lot like a visual travel diary, and well worth seeing.  The exhibit closes on Saturday, August 2nd, so you only have a little more time to check it out!

final week

If you’d like to continue your study of how Americans have historically viewed Asia, you might be interested in many of the collections that are among the American Heritage Center’s holdings. We have a number of collections that tell the stories of Americans encountering new cultures, often for the first time.

A few of these include the Mary Hoyt Williams Crozier journal, which gives a fascinating look at one American’s adventure in Japan and China in the early 1920s, as well as the Dorothy Eidlitz papers, which shed light on the life of an American society woman in Kobe, Japan.  We also have the papers of Bailey Willis, a geologist who worked extensively in Asia. His collection contains lantern slides and photograph albums of travels in China, Sumatra, Java, India, Japan, the Philippines, Hawaii, and Egypt. There are also maps, artwork, and souvenirs from Willis’s 1903-1904 trip through China.  One of the particular feathers in our cap is the Irene Kuhn papers; Kuhn was one of the first women foreign correspondents to work in China. The China Press was her employer in the early 1920s and she documented the experience with a considerable number of photographs.  It’s a fascinating look at Chinese culture and customs between the world wars.

Chinese street scene, ca. mid-1920s, Irene Kuhn Papers, Collection #8536, Box 26, Folder 6. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Chinese street scene, ca. mid-1920s, Irene Kuhn Papers, Collection #8536, Box 26, Folder 6. American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Many of the collections currently in the AHC’s holdings related to Asia overlap with other collecting areas, most notably with the areas of military history and journalism. Many of the individuals who spent time in Asian nations did so during times of global conflict—World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars, for example. Many of these individuals served as soldiers, sailors, and pilots, as well as journalists assigned to foreign correspondent positions. Other collections share topical areas with the AHC’s focus on politics, as several personal papers were donated by individuals who served in the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Treasury Department, and various branches of the U.S. Foreign Service in consulates and embassies around the world. Also represented heavily are collections that document Americans’ experiences as energy, mining, or infrastructure consultants for foreign firms, universities, or international affiliates of U.S. companies. In addition, mountaineers are fairly well represented in our existing holdings, as certain mountainous regions of Asia include popular climbing peaks, such as Mt. Everest and K2.

So, make sure to find time to take in the UW Art Museum’s exhibit before Saturday! And if you’d like to examine additional historical perspectives on Asia, the AHC’s collections are always open.  Do come and see us sometime!

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