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A portal at the NW terrace of the James Madison building in Washington, DC. Illustration by Jeffrey Yoo Warren.

Experience “Hidden Portals” this May

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This is a post by Jamie Mears, a senior innovation specialist for the Library of Congress Labs.

In honor of Asian / Pacific American Heritage Month, Library of Congress 2023-2024 Innovator in Residence Jeffrey Yoo Warren invites the public to experience hidden portals to five historic Asian American communities created with Library of Congress collections for the month of May. Portals are accessible by mobile device at original sites around the country and on the Library of Congress campus in Washington, DC.

An image of the Jefferson building with an illustration of a person holding a tablet up to the building and a drawing of a virtual person in front of the building.
A portal at the NW terrace of the James Madison building in Washington, DC. Illustration by Jeffrey Yoo Warren.

If you’ve been following this project on The Signal, then you know Jeff and local Asian American artists have been collaborating on virtual reconstructions of sites such as the Chinese Vegetable Gardens in Portland, Oregon, China Alley in Hanford, California, and Empire Street Chinatown where Jeff lives in Providence, RI.

These sites – as well as two additional ones featuring historic Asian American communities in Truckee, CA and Riverside, CA – have been rendered into 360 degree immersive photospheres and dropped in place via GPS onto designated public sites within a 30 ft. by 30 ft. square in the following locations:

  • Providence, Rhode Island on Empire Street between Washington Street & Chapel Street
  • Portland, Oregon on SW 18th Avenue between SW Madison Street & SW Salmon Street
  • Hanford, California on China Aly between N Green Street & N White Street
  • Truckee, California at Donner Pass Road & Spring Street
  • Riverside, California at Cottage Street & Commerce Street
  • 5 places on the Library of Congress campus in Washington, DC

The Hidden Portals website provides pictures of each location as it appears today, and integrates to your preferred map app for directions if you’d like to visit. As you approach with the Hidden Portals site open on your phone, the portal will appear accompanied by an ambient soundtrack. You can tap to see a larger view, listen to Jeff’s accompanying narration, and move your phone to explore the full scene. As you leave the area, the portal will close behind you.

A screenshot of a portal to Pachappa Camp, c.1912 at Cottage Street & Commerce Street in Riverside, CA. Photos of residents include children playing baseball and track, riding bicycles, learning trumpet and playing among the chrysanthemums the community grew. This portal was created by Jeffrey Yoo Warren and Mikki Paek with the help of the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies at UC Riverside.

If you are able to visit portals on the Library’s campus in DC, make sure you don’t miss the Geography and Map Division location!! After experiencing the portal in the Globe foyer of the James Madison building, visitors can stop by the reference desk during reading room hours to see some of the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Jeff used to create the reconstructions and ask questions to the friendly staff there.

See the Hidden Portals site for more information on the experimental experience and the communities honored. And if you’re interested in doing this type of research or reconstruction work yourself, be sure to check out Jeff’s relational reconstruction toolkit.

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