REF: South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA)

SAADA’s digital collections reflect the vast range of experiences of the South Asian diaspora in the U.S., including those who trace their heritage to Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the many South Asian diaspora communities across the globe.

SAADA was founded in 2008 and was incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in 2010. SAADA founder and President of the Board Samip Mallick explained, “We founded SAADA in recognition of a critical need to document and preserve the history of this community.  There are no other archives that are working to systematically document, preserve and make accessible the material history of South Asians in the United States. Without SAADA, we feared that this history was in danger of being lost.”

Digitized materials in SAADA’s collections reflect the diversity of the community,  including: the papers of the first Asian American Congressman, Dalip Singh Saund; historic articles about the early immigration of South Asians to the U.S. dating from 1910; pamphlets created by the Gadar Party in California in 1915; and photographs documenting the political activism of the South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY) in 2004.

“A community’s strength is in its collective memory,” said SAADA board member, Tina Bhaga Yokota. “I like to think of SAADA as a brain trust of South Asian American history. We’re interested in the small stories as well as the big ones. Everyone’s history is important. The more stories we archive – through photos, letters, video, or other media – the more our collective memory strengthens. But we have to start now, because our grandparents and great-grandparents’ are getting older and we need to capture their stories so they can be shared with subsequent generations.”

SAADA is currently looking to expand its collections by digitizing additional materials. The organization is particularly interested in archival records that document a range of political engagement and cultural expression among diverse South Asian American communities.

Those interested in contributing are encouraged to contact the organization.

Unlike most archives, SAADA focuses solely on providing access to materials on the internet. “SAADA is different from museum exhibitions or university collections because it’s located online, catalogued systematically, and accessible to all, free of charge.  I envision SAADA being an interactive learning hub for accessing personal perspectives of larger movements, important local histories, and forgotten narratives from early settlers in the 19th and 20th centuries,” Yokota said.

Board member Manan Desai echoed this excitement. “As a repository of materials relating to this diaspora, SAADA can become an invaluable resource for researchers and community members in piecing together the past.  Putting these materials online allows this history to be accessible for a larger public,” he said.


Author: Camara Dia Holloway

I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department. Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.

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