The rich cultural story of Arlington’s “Little Saigon” will come alive again through a new guide produced with a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH).
The full-color booklet will document and interpret the impact of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian immigrants who concentrated around the faded pre-Metro commercial center of Clarendon after the 1975 fall of South Vietnam.
The $9,000 grant—the largest made by the foundation last year–will fund a collaboration led by the County’s Cultural Affairs Division working with the Historic Preservation Program and Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History.
Aliza Schiff of Cultural Affairs says the project will feature recent interviews as well as new research, building on “a multi-disciplinary approach to documenting cultural heritage, which includes public art, oral histories and historic preservation.”
The “Echoes of Little Saigon: Southeast Asian Immigration and the Changing Faces of Arlington” guide is envisioned as the first in a series that will focus on the cultural heritage of different ethnic groups within the County.
Historic Preservation Program coordinator Cynthia Liccese-Torres says the establishment of Little Saigon was vital in opening “doors for future waves of immigration. Today, Arlington’s reputation as a welcoming and diverse community owes much to the Little Saigon era.”
Publication is expected this fall in conjunction with a community forum featuring those who worked and frequented the businesses comprising Little Saigon during its cultural heyday. The three County organizations teamed up last year for a series of events celebrating Arlington’s Vietnamese heritage 40 years after Saigon fell.
Earlier VFH grants helped the County produce the African American heritage publications “Community Voices: The Nauck Community Heritage Project” and “Up On the Hill: An Oral History of the Halls Hill Neighborhood.”
This summer will see the release of an expanded version of the County’s popular but out-of-print booklet, “African American History in Arlington, Virginia: A Guide to the Historic Sites of a Long and Proud Heritage.” That second edition is made possible by a $3,000 matching grant from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
The Center for Local History at Central Library is Arlington’s official community archives.