Summer Research Report: Amanda Barnett

11 Sep, 2022

Summer Research Report: Amanda Barnett

We're thrilled to support our students in their summer research. Read about Amanda's preparation for a Spring 2023 exhibit at Wing Luke Museum, Seattle’s Asian Pacific American history museum.

Thanks to the Berkeley Center for New Media (BCNM) for the generous Summer Research Grant, which supported my work with the Wing Luke Museum, Seattle’s Asian Pacific American history museum, to prepare for a Spring 2023 exhibit. The exhibit, title forthcoming, explores the construction of the Interstate 5 (I-5) freeway as it displaced Chinatown/International District (C-ID) residents and businesses and disrupted a diverse, thriving community in the mid-20th century. This disruption is part of a larger pattern of inequitable land use and transportation policies and development practices associated with urban renewal-era and federal highway administration infrastructure. The exhibit situates itself in a moment when another transportation agency, Sound Transit, plans to construct potentially disruptive light rail expansions in the C-ID that may impact Seattle’s communities of color living in the C-ID today.

Seattle’s communities of color have a shared history of marginalization, oppression, and exploitation – and a history of coming together to challenge these injustices. My role and research in supporting this exhibit includes development of exhibit design for how we can use digital and in-person visual archiving tools to support a living story-telling project. Using new media technologies to offer interactive visualizations of the neighborhood can help people imagine what the CID was like prior to the construction/destruction of I-5.

In collaboration with a group of museum and art historians, neighborhood activists, and artists, I worked with the Wing Luke Museum in preparation for the exhibit in April. Most exhibits at the Wing Luke Museum are developed in tandem with a community board, and so I am lucky to serve on that board as an urban planning and digital archive strategist. I am using what I’ve learned from my classes through BCNM’s certificate program to support strategies around interactive display of historical archives that can act as imaginaries for the past, present, and future. Developing an exhibit in which visitors and neighbors can continue to add to the story, through personal stories/oral histories, photographs, written documents, and other forms of recording, is a way in which I am applying the lessons from BCNM to this work. I am interrogating the archive as something mutable and existing as a community practice. For example, one method we are considering is the real-time digitization of records, which offers openings to think about who can add or adjust an archive, and when?

Part of my work has also been interviews with local residents, and in particular collecting map locations and photographs that may be displayed in an interactive format at the exhibit. In collecting this information, I am in the process of trying to spatialize and visualize their recollections of the CID before I-5 was built. We are conjointly working with artists who are offering their own visualization strategies that build on histories and futures. The stories of marginalized communities are often erased by systemic power inequities that affect the historical record. Unearthing and/or imagining these stories is an act of resistance. I am excited to continue to work with the Wing Luke Museum through the fall and spring to support the ways that New Media may contribute to the act of storytelling.

Thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward to continuing work with BCNM in the future!