Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage in the Collections

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been central to our nation's story. There are more than 17 million people of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in the United States from a region that covers more than one third of the earth—including the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Pacific. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center shares Asian Pacific American history, art, and culture through innovative museum experiences online and throughout the U.S. In observance of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 2021, the center focused its efforts on combating xenophobia across a range of different formats and media at

The National Museum of American History exhibition, A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution traces the history of Japanese American confinement from immigration in the late 19th century to forced detention during World War II and the court cases and redress that came more than 40 years after the detention camps closed in 1946. 

The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery is home to portraits of distinguished Asian Pacific Americans, among them statesman Norman Mineta, civil rights activist Fred Korematsu, architects George Nakashima and Maya Lin, best-selling author Julie Otsuka, actor and social media activist George Takei, Japanese film star Sessue Hayakawa, movie star Anna May Wong, and experimental physicist Chien-Shiung Wu. Artists of Asian American descent and their art are featured throughout our museums.

The book Smithsonian Asian Pacific American History, Art, and Culture in 101 Objects offers a remarkable exploration of the experiences of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders through a thoughtful selection of 101 objects from across the Smithsonian’s vast holdings.