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University of the Pacific Libraries

University Library
3601 Pacific Avenue
Stockton, CA 95211

Little Manila Recreated

by Joshua Salyers

The Digital Delta Project started as a grant to embed digital humanities projects into history department classrooms, but the showcase of the initiative is the competitive interdisciplinary Summer Fellowship. This fellowship teaches interdisciplinary collaboration, connects students to the community, and encourages students to experiment with technology to tell human stories.This summer, seven students from the departments of history, education, computer science, and graphic design, collaborated to create a Virtual Reality museum exhibit using historical research and interviews to historicize the effects of immigration policies, discrimination, and city planning decisions on community cohesion. So please, visit the Filipino-American National Historical Society Museum (FANHS) downtown, virtually walk through the reconstructed streets of Stockton’s once-vibrant Filipino neighborhood, and learn the history of a place that was once home to the largest population of Filipinos in the United States.

The Lafayette Lunch Counter  Filipino-American National Historical Society Museum (FANHS) downtown

On June 15th, 2018, Summer Fellowship students gave a public presentation of Little Manila Recreated in the Library’s Community Room. After the presentation, the public filed out to put on headsets and experience our VR reconstruction of a once thriving Filipino neighborhood in downtown Stockton. We had finally convinced a reluctant Albert Juanitas, a former resident of Little Manila, to put on a VR headset and experience the project. With the Oculus Rift secured to his face, he looked amusingly around the Rizal social club, a building he remembered as a young man. For us, Albert’s seal of approval is important. He is a hard man to impress. With near photographic accuracy, he had drawn building blueprints and described interiors from memory, and, of course, told the occasional salacious story. We had interviewed him for this project. Twice. After a short while, he removed the headset and gave his assessment.

“Where is the pole? And the table?”

We knew the drill. We got out our notepads and began recording his corrections as he explained what we got wrong in the Rizal. Believe it or not, this is the response you want from a community member like Albert. He was engaging with our project and asking us to make it more accurate. This is what a true public history project is all about; it makes the community part of the university, and the university part of the community. In the words of one fellowship student, “this project helped [her] feel more connected to Stockton.”

Little Manilla Project Fellowship StudentsI am a strong advocate for providing students with these types of experiences. When one of our students wrote that he, “learned more about this community and this city in one month of this fellowship than…in two years here in Stockton,” he illustrated the pedagogical efficacy of digital public history projects. Projects like these do more than use novel technology to impress people with what we can accomplish. Working on something like this requires empathy, sacrifice, and dedication. These students are tasked with taking another group’s history and recreating it in respectful and dynamic ways. The responsibility of this task is not lost on them and they are, “grateful to have had the opportunity to center Filipino American voices and stories through our unique and innovative VR game.” And, ultimately, they learn more about the history, because they care more about the people.

For more coverage of Little Manila Recreated:

Elizabeth Bishop’s Story:

Fox 40 News Coverage: