The Asian American Studies Program at Penn explores the historical and contemporary experiences of Asian immigrants and of persons of Asian ancestry in North America. All areas of Asia are covered, including East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. It offers a minor and supports a graduate group. The highly interdisciplinary program consists of faculty representing the fields of History, Literature, Sociology, Anthropology, Education, and more. Collecting for Asian American Studies is done through relevant subject funds rather than through a distinct Asian American Studies fund. Ethnic studies of all sorts is a high priority for the Penn Libraries, and consequently it has a strong collection of material supporting Asian American Studies. To supplement our local collection, BorrowDirect access to circulating collections held by Ivy+ Plus Libraries serves the essential purposes of filling gaps and providing second copies when Penn's are unavailable.
The Library has also purchased a robust collection of electronic primary and secondary source resources to support research relating to Asian Americans. Collection of Videos in either DVD or streaming format also has been and remains robust, especially in areas supporting faculty research interests. Physical items supporting Africana Studies are mainly located in Van Pelt Library, but the Fisher Fine Arts Library and Museum Library have significant holdings relating to arts/design and anthropology, respectively.
Local special collections relating to Asian Americans focus on their experience in Philadelphia. For 25 years the Asian Arts Intitiative has been offering exhibitions, performances, artist residencies, youth workshops, and a community gathering space. It holds archives relating to its history and activities. Since 1987 the Philadelphia Folklore Initiative has documented the cultural lives of immigrant and minority groups in Philadelphia. Its archives contain that documentation in print, photographs and video, and also hold information about the educational and practical efforts of the Initiative. Temple's Urban Archives is Philadelphia's primary repository of local community, quasi-governmental, for-profit and non-profit records. The Balch Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania also holds an extensive collection of manuscripts and newspapers representing the experiences of Asian in America.
Specific collections held at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts are described below.