The Smithsonian Learning Lab Explores Asian Pacific American History



On the sunny and chilly Saturday, April 7, 2018, about two dozen people gathered to explore the stories, history and culture of Asian Pacific Americans who came to Lowell, Massachusetts.  Representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, UMass Lowell Center for Asian American Studies, and the Tsongas Industrial History Center came together for a teacher workshop with Lowell educators from grades K-12.

The day’s events included:

  • A viewing of Bridges: Southeast Asians’ American Journey video and an discussion with Phitsamy Uy.
  • Teaching with Artifacts:  Unpacking the Cambodian “Luggage” in the Yankees and Immigrants program with Kristin Gallas
  • Panel discussion about Southeast Asian Refugee/Immigrant Experience in Lowell with:
    • Phitsamay S. Uy, Associate Professor of Education and Co-Director of the Center for Asian American Studies, UMass Lowell
    • Samkhannn C. Khoeun, Academic Advisor at Middlesex Community College’s TRIO-Educational Talent Search
    • Kennis Mor, UMass Lowell Student and Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association Board Member
    • Rev. Ko Ko Yay, Volunteer Pastor, Lowell International Church
  • An introduction to the Smithsonian’s Digital Learning Lab with Ashley Naranjo and Tess Porter
  • An opportunity to create a collection of artifacts digitally in the Smithsonian Learning Lab
  • My collection Asian Pacific Cuisine is listed below:
  • A wonderful lunch from a local Cambodian restaurant Simply Khmer located in Lowell, MA

Many of my students in the culinary program and my food studies course are of Asian Pacific heritage.  This workshop opened my eyes greatly about the peril the people of Cambodia and nearby regions faced leaving their homeland and creating a new life in Lowell, Massachusetts.  The City of Lowell has the second largest Cambodian population in the country.  Many of those who were relocated themselves, or descendants of refugees are now coming together and joining forces to preserve the historic stories and ways of their ancestors.  This includes events such as teacher professional development, the Asian American Cultures Festival, Taste of Lowell Southeast Asia, and the Lowell Southeast Asia Water Festival.

Personally, I chose to attend this full day workshop as a way to connect to the Asian Pacific students in my classroom at a new level.  In my International Foods course we explore foods from regions all over the world, including a unit on Asian Cuisine.  The information I gathered from the panel speakers, video, question & answer session and the Smithsonian Learning Lab gives me new resources for exploring Asian Cuisine and culture.  Photos of the students cooking projects can be viewed from the collection link below.  I am already planning to add these resources and create more collections for students to use as a part of our curriculum.


Chef Susan Brassard is culinary arts and food studies instructor at Lowell High School and an adjunct professor at Newbury College, in the culinary arts department. She holds a Master’s degree in Gastronomy from Boston University and is working on a CAGS in Occupational Education and History at Fitchburg State University.   Her research focus is Cookery Receipt Collections, Domestic Manuals and early colonial American housewares.  

Sources and Links:

©Susan Brassard,, April 8, 2018