Jeffrey Yoo Warren, a Korean American artist-educator, community scientist, illustrator, researcher, and Library of Congress 2023 Innovator in Residence, presented his project “Seeing Providence Chinatown” at the 1882 Foundation’s Talk Story event on Sunday, July 23.
“Seeing Providence Chinatown” is a virtual reconstruction of the since-destroyed Chinatown in Providence RI. To recreate the space, Yoo Warren examined archival photographs, built 3D architectural models of the streetscape, and designed a virtual environment. He explained that Chinatowns and other ethnic enclaves are often not the focus of archival material: “In all the pictures I was able to find, through archives and Google searches, Chinatown was around the corner…It’s really what journalists wanted to say, not what the community wanted to be remembered by.”
However, speculative work—such as Yoo Warren’s—can help counteract the erasure of these narratives and communities. Yoo Warren imagined perspectives that may not have been available before. For instance, white photographers likely would not have had a connection to the community, so they would not have captured images inside buildings or from interior windows.
The event ended with a Q&A moderated by 1882 Foundation Executive Director Ted Gong and Special Projects and Collaborations Advisor Sojin Kim.
Yoo Warren also created a virtual reality headset that allows users to see and hear the sites of Providence Chinatown in 1910. Attendees had the opportunity to try the headset after the event.
The entire event recording is available below:
Special thanks to speaker Jeffrey Yoo Warren, 1882 Foundation staff, and I Street Conference Center staff for their help and support.