The Re/Collecting Project is an “ethnic studies memory project of California's Central Coast”—you can call it Re/Co for short. Our aim is to digitally capture and make publicly accessible the rich history of the diverse—yet under-documented—communities of the region, which includes San Luis Obispo and northern Santa Barbara counties.

The demographics of California's Central Coast may not suggest the importance that diverse communities have had in shaping the region. By the 1920s, the Central Coast, located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, emerges as a vibrant growing region after the establishment of the rail effectively brought it out of geographic and economic isolation. It became a part of the migrant labor trail, and towns like Pismo Beach, Lompoc, Guadalupe, and Santa Maria were economic—and social—hubs for agricultural workers who came from places like China, Mexico, Japan, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Even before this, the area was home to Chumash and Salinan Indians, who were displaced by Spanish conquerors. And like many places in the United States during the nineteenth century, the Central Coast saw the influx of European immigrants. 

The images, documents, stories, and mementos that we digitize generally cannot be found in any public repositories or archives. Instead, they reside with individuals—in their family albums, in their attics or garages, in their memories. By digitizing these materials, this project will make centrally and publicly available historically significant materials and stories. We thus seek to encourage community and academic research by providing information-rich materials for a regional understanding of these local communities.

To collect these materials and the stories they tell, we organize “Re/Collecting Days” where we invite families and individuals to recollect their stories as well as to participate in collecting their story materials for digital preservation and access. We also make house calls—bringing and setting up our equipment to individual homes—or set up a digitization and interview booth at community gatherings. Working in the “field,” we interview individuals and families and digitize their photos and documents while they wait. We do not ask for any donations of physical objects—only permission to digitize and make those images publicly available. We also provide information on how to best preserve family papers and photographs for future generations to appreciate.


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