The Lao American Archive Project began in October 2022 with a generous grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, with Professor Ian Baird as the Principle Investigator for the project, working together with a steering committee made of Akarath Soukhaphon, Saengmany Ratsabout, Mike Ratanasengchanh and Lili Sisombath. Ryan Wolfson-Ford, from the Library of Congress, is advising the project.
The Lao American Archive Project is being initiated due to a serious crisis. There are not any national repositories for Lao American archival materials, even though over 250,000 ethnic Lao people have immigrated to the United States, mainly as political refugees, since Laos became a communist country in 1975.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has agreed to take on this role and work closely with the project to create a national repository for Lao American archival materials in Lao and English languages.
One of the project’s main goals is to acquire important Lao American archival collections to Madison, Wisconsin; organize and create finding aids for these collections; and digitize parts of these collections. Lao language materials are especially being targeted for collection.
In addition, the project is videotaping oral histories of first generation Lao Americans, with the goal of eventually making those oral history videos available online. Most interviews are being done in Lao language.
It is hoped that the project will make a significant contribution to preserving important Lao American history.