(Clockwise from top left) Titchie Carandang-Tiongson, webinar moderator; Rodney Obien, college archivist and associate professor at Keene State College, New Hampshire; Catherine Keen, Rita M. Cacas Foundation board member and retired archivist at the Smithsonian Institution; and Rita Cacas, President of the Rita M. Cacas Foundation.


23 OCTOBER 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Archives tell us stories. Our possessions – may it be photographs, documents, scrapbooks, or other keepsakes – preserve our personal stories and, in the future, would provide insights into the past. Archiving is essential to educating the next generations of Filipino-Americans about their roots and heritage,” said Mr. Renato Villa, Philippine Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, as he opened the virtual program “Istorya DC 2020: Preserving Memories in the Time of COVID-19” on 22 October 2020 (23 October 2020 in the Philippines). 

Held in October, which is celebrated as Filipino-American History Month and Archives Month in the United States, Istorya DC is an educational gathering that aims to share the histories, stories, and research about DC area Filipinos and their communities. 

The Rita M. Cacas Foundation (RMCF), Philippines in the Potomac Project (POPDC), and Sentro Rizal Washington DC co-hosted this year’s Istorya DC, in partnership with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) through NCCA’s “Padayon: Paglikha sa Panahon ng Pandemya”, that aims to inspire overseas Filipinos to move forward and thrive in spite of the pandemic. 

“Our webinar tonight will feature experienced archivists who will focus on how to preserve tangible memories as we aspire to not only bring a feeling of hope, connectedness, and healing but at the same time impart basic archiving knowledge and techniques to our audience. Through this webinar, we aim to raise public awareness of the importance of documents and records, and promote the value of archives and the important work of archivists,” DCM Villa also stated.

The first featured speaker was Rita M. Cacas, President of the Rita M. Cacas Foundation (RMCF), a non-profit, charitable organization that helps acquire, preserve, and provide access to histories, culture, and archives of Filipino-Americans in metropolitan Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia for present and future generations. 

She shared tips and tricks in organizing and classifying items drawn from her personal experience in preserving family mementos. She also showcased her do-it-yourself shadow boxes that were filled with numerous items that were labelled and accompanied by old photos that tell stories behind the memories.

Catherine Keen, a retired archivist at the Smithsonian Institution and board member of the RMCF, delivered a presentation on conducting genealogy research using digital databases and published resources. 

Keen listed useful websites such as Archives Grid, National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, and the Immigration History Research Center (University of Minnesota) to assist in further tracing family history. 

Rodney Obien, a college archivist and associate professor at Keene State College in New Hampshire, shared practical digitization techniques with the use of smart phones/tablets, scanner boxes, and photo negatives scanners that have made the preservation and archiving of all kinds of materials much easier for amateur archivists who wish to start a collection. 

Titchie Carandang-Tiongson of RMCF and POPDC moderated the discussion. In a video-recorded message that was played prior to the speakers’ presentations, NCCA Executive Director Al Ryan Alejandre elaborated on the objectives of the Padayon program. 

“Istorya DC 2020: Preserving Memories in the Time of COVID-19” may be viewed on the Embassy’s Facebook page.

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Rita Cacas shares her methods of classifying her collection


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Catherine Keen demonstrates how to use Archive Grid as a reference source for ancestry and genealogy research.


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Rodney Obien focuses his presentation on currently available tools for digitizing a collection