Reflections from an Intern at SBTHP’s Presidio Research Center

By Tamia McDonald

Presidio Research Center Intern Tamia McDonald.

Hello, my name is Tamia McDonald and in spring 2022 I worked alongside Dez Alaniz, SBTHP’s Director of the Presidio Research Center, as an intern in the Presidio Research Center. I started my internship at the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation just after completing my undergraduate thesis about the Black Panther Party, and their use of media to foster a global legacy despite constant governmental backlash and sabotage. My research made me well-versed in using online archives, specifically government affiliated resources such as: FBI Records: The Vault – COINTELPRO. My recent research experience is what made me to apply for the internship at the Presidio Research Center. I found this internship listing while idly scrolling through Handshake (a web portal SBTHP uses to advertise their open internships to universities and colleges), and after reading the job description I was immediately intrigued. Sure, I had worked with primary documents from archives as a researcher, but I wondered about the other side, the role of an archivist.

Various Business licenses for Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens dating back to 1940.

While at SBTHP, I processed, described, and arranged the Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens collection. Jimmy’s is the last visual remnant of Santa Barbara’s Chinatown. In 1947, Jimmy Chung opened his Canon Perdido street location in what was then Santa Barbara’s Chinatown, within the original footprint of the Santa Barbara Presidio. The Chungs operated the restaurant until they closed their doors in 2006. SBTHP purchased the historic building, and worked with the State of California to add it to El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park, and by proxy acquired many documents and artifacts from the restaurant. During my internship, I was tasked to assess, arrange and archive these documents.

Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens business records.

I’m not sure what I expected of my internship, I imagined that I would merely be sorting some papers or handling mundane librarian-type duties. I would never have thought that I would be assessing such an important collection all by myself. The Jimmy’s collection I helped organize contained financial documents and licenses from Jimmy’s second location off of Cabrillo Street (the first location was on 330 West Cabrillo from 1940-1942, the second being 320 West Cabrillo from 1942-1947). Jimmy’s later moved its Canon Perdido site in 1947 (now the Pickle Room and Three Pickles).  

Postcards collected from the interior of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens.

When I began my internship at SBTHP, I did not know that Santa Barbara had a Chinatown and I had never heard of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens. After processing the documents, I created a finding aid, which will help future researchers and visitors to the Presidio Research Center who wish to find more information on the restaurant and the Chung family. The process of appraising and archiving this collection gave me an appreciation for dating and documenting life as it occurs.

During my time at SBTHP, I learned the intricacies of archival work. I learned how the decisions made by an archivist can determine the accessibility of a collection, and what an organization chooses to highlight and interpret for the public. The role of a librarian and archivist is so much more than it seems, it intertwines both presentation and inclusion. Archivists make invaluable, informative decisions that define how history is accessed and understood by future generations.

I hope to become a historian and history professor someday, and my time at SBTHP was an important step in that direction.

3 thoughts on “Reflections from an Intern at SBTHP’s Presidio Research Center”

    1. Where did you go to school? UCSB? I went there when they had a master’s degree in public history. I don’t think they offer that any more.

  1. Tamia. I am so thrilled to learn that you interned at the Trust and chose to organize the papers of Jimmy’s Oriental Gardens and create finding aids that will help future scholars and those interested in learning about Santa Barbara’s Chinatown. It was my goal to see the book and periodical collection cataloged which has been completed but I believe the archival collections are the real treasures of the Library and that’s why it is so important that the archival materials are be “cataloged, that is organized for use by scholars

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