All posts by kathrynsheriff

“There is no dust in SAADA!”

“We believe that History is not a spectator sport.” – SAADA Core Values

The South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) is located in Philadelphia and was established in 2008 to document the diverse range of experiences of South Asians in the United States. The collection is a purely digital repository that works in collaboration with organizations and individuals to collect digital files in a variety of formats, and everything in their collection is made available online.


SAADA has a very impressive collection policy that delineates the scope of the collection. While they consider anything that reflects the diverse experiences of South Asians in America, the following topics are their primary focus:

  •  Pre-1965 immigrants and visitors
  • The Bellingham Riots
  • South Asian American political involvement and activism
  • Professional associations and labor organizations
  • Regional and community organizations
  • Religious organizations and places of worship
  • Community newspapers
  • Student organizations
  • Prominent South Asian American artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians and intellectuals

The collection policy also defines South Asians to include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and they are open to any resources that speak to the experiences of individuals from these communities or any of the extended South Asian diaspora communities across the world. The primary focus of the collection seems to be accessibility, and they take digital files of archival resources from several physically dispersed archival repositories and private collections in order to create a more cohesive look at the South Asian immigrant experience.


Celebrating diversity is definitely a priority of this repository, both figuratively and literally. SAADA is not only concerned with presenting the diverse narrative of the South Asian American experience, they are also focused on telling these stories in a variety of ways. They do not restrict formats for submission to the site, and currently hold 2,047 unique digital items ranging from photographs to websites to newspaper clippings dating as far back as the 19th century. Users can browse these images in a number of ways, including by type, location, time period, language, theme, and subject. It is an incredibly user-friendly interface in that way.


SAADA truly aims to be an activist archival institution, creating programs to illustrate that individuals make history, that ordinary people make extraordinary contributions to society, and that everyday stories matter. One of the more intriguing projects they have currently is the First Days Project. This initiative works with individuals to document the experience of their first days as immigrants to America. This takes the form of oral histories, videos, and text-based narratives and is presented in an interactive interface allowing users to explore the many stories of immigrants’ first days in America. The goal of this project is to encapsulate the feelings of excitement, nervousness, loss, humor, sadness, adventure, and confusion that accompany one on a first day in a new place.

that first day in america

This repository is a great example of an identity based community archive whose aim is to allow minority groups to tell their own stories through personal and organizational records of their experiences. They believe that strong archives are vital to community well being and that archives can be dynamic spaces for dialogue and debate – there is no dust in SAADA – and they truly foster this belief by providing a myriad of viewpoints on the South Asian American immigrant experience.