• Elizabeth Fair

Poetry in Place: Interpreting the Angel Island Immigration Station

Elizabeth Fair will discuss the material and spatial qualities of the Chinese poetry carved into the walls of the Angel Island Immigration Station by detainees. Her experiences as a park interpretive specialist at Angel Island inspired her to pursue a PhD in Art history in order to study the ways calligraphy, architecture, and landscape work together to shape history and memory. Fair will reflect on how her job caring for the detention building and sharing its stories with visitors raised many questions for her, including how the location of poems carved into walls interacts with the views out the windows toward freedom, both for detainees a century ago and visitors today.

Elizabeth Fair is a PhD student in History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. She studies the concept of cultural heritage in California, looking at its evolving institutional and everyday interpretations of history through public visual and material culture and the built environment, especially in regard to transpacific immigration in the 20th century. Her current research focuses on these themes through case studies of inscription and other architectural objects in the Chinese American built environment. Before entering the PhD program, she worked for two years at Angel Island State Park as a Park Interpretive Specialist, leading tours at the US Immigration Station Museum.