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Finding Aid to the Kem K. Lee Photographs and Other Materials, 1927-1986
AAS ARC 2006/1  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Kem K. Lee photographs and other materials
    Date (inclusive): 1927-1986
    Collection Number: AAS ARC 2006/1
    Creators : Lee, Kem K.
    Extent: Number of containers: 3 cartons, 154 boxes, 15 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 73.75
    Repository: University of California, Berkeley. Ethnic Studies Library
    30 Stephens Hall #2360
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California, 94720-2360
    Phone: (510) 643-1234
    Fax: (510) 643-8433
    Email: esl@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://eslibrary.berkeley.edu
    Abstract: The Kem Lee photograph collection, 1927-1986, contains Lee's photographs and other materials in subject files relating to his photojournalistic assignments and business advertisements for San Francisco Chinatown newspapers and includes photographs of the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant, community organizations, political activities, as well as formal studio portraits. Formats consist of photographs, contact sheets, transparencies, negatives, slides, 16mm reels, newspaper clippings, and materials related to the photographs. The collection also contains Kem Lee's personal self-portraits; photographs with his wife, Nanying Stella Wong (Stella Wong Lee); his family and friends; biographical materials; correspondence; and poetry. Kem Lee Studio business correspondence and records, layouts for advertising, reference materials for assignments, newspaper clippings, and miscellany are also included in the collection. There are a few photographs of documents that date from 1909 to 1920.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English and Chinese
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Ethnic Studies Library. All requests for permission to publish or reproduce must be submitted in writing to the appropriate curator. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Ethnic Studies Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader. Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Kem K. Lee Photographs and Other Materials, AAS ARC 2006/1, Ethnic Studies Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Chinese Americans--Pictorial works
    Chinese Americans--Political activity
    Chinese Americans--Societies, etc
    Chinese New Year--California--San Francisco
    Chinese Americans--California--San Francisco Bay Area--Photographs
    Poetry, Chinese
    Beauty contests--California--San Francisco
    Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.)--Pictorial works
    Wong, Nanying Stella
    Kem Lee Studio
    Lee Family Association (San Francisco, Calif.)

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Kem Lee photographs and other materials were purchased by the Asian American Studies Library from Stella Wong Lee on April 30, 1991.

    Accruals

    No additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Collection processed by Janice Otani, Amy Gilgan, and Jean Kao

    Biographical Information

    Kem K. Lee was born on October 1, 1910 in the Taishan District, Guangdong Province of China. In 1928, he arrived in the United States and later opened one of the first photography studios in San Francisco's Chinatown. Lee worked both as a studio photographer and photojournalist, documenting community and organization events, including serving as the official photographer of the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant. He married poet-artist Nanying Stella Wong. When he retired from professional photography in 1978, he concentrated on writing and publishing his poetry in various local Chinese language newspapers. Kem Lee passed away on October 2, 1986. He was also known as Lee Siu Yum, Lee Kim Kin, and Thomas K. Lee.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Kem Lee photograph collection, 1927-1986, contains Lee's photographs and other materials in subject files relating to his photojournalistic assignments and business advertisements for San Francisco Chinatown newspapers and includes photographs of the Miss Chinatown USA Pageant, community organizations, and political activities, as well as formal studio portraits. Formats consist of photographs, contact sheets, transparencies, negatives, slides, 16mm reels, newspaper clippings, and materials related to the photographs. The collection also contains Kem Lee's personal self-portraits; photographs with his wife, Nanying Stella Wong (Stella Wong Lee); his family and friends; biographical materials; correspondence; and poetry. Kem Lee Studio business correspondence and records, layouts for advertising, reference materials for assignments, newspaper clippings, and miscellany are also included in the collection. There are a few photographs of documents that date from 1909 to 1920.
    The collection, comprised of over 200,000 images, documents the people and activities of the San Francisco Chinatown Chinese American community during the 1940s to the 1980s. Some of the topics represented are beauty pageants from 1948 to 1986; businesses; community leaders such as John Yehall Chin, Jackson Hu, Kenneth Joe, George Jue, T. Kong Lee, Joe Quan, Reverend T.T. Taam, H.K. Wong, S.K. Wong; cinematographer, James Wong Howe; Flower Drum Song; opera; organizations such as the Lee Family Association, Chinese American Citizens Alliance (CACA), Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CCC), Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA), Chinese Tea Forum, Lion's Club, Lung Kong Association, Circle and Square Club, YMCA; politicians; restaurants such as Imperial Palace, Kan's, Kuo Wah, Tao Tao, Universal Cafe; and travel, primarily to China. The studio portraits include men, women, families, graduates, military servicemen, and weddings. There are also a few photographs in Lee's collection taken by other photographers.
    When personal names and corporate names found in Lee's indexes were listed in various forms and spellings, all variations are noted. In some instances when names in the indexes did not correspond to the photograph, the name was listed with the notation "on envelope" as a possibility of the person ordering the photograph. The Library of Congress Authorities, community organization publications containing member's names, and other community and ethnic specific resources were used for identification purposes.
    The photographs are black and white, hand-tinted, and color, in various sizes from 1 ½" x 1 ½" inches to 17" x 22." Many of the oversize photographs are mounted on matte board for exhibition purposes. There are also photographs reproduced and mounted from the collection in 1997 for an exhibition in San Francisco's Chinatown. Negatives vary from 35mm strips to 8" x 10" in size. There are mounted 2" and 3" slides, 16mm film reels, and transparencies. Because the majority of photographs were not in an arranged order, subject files were established and all formats of images, including photocopies of proofs, correspond to specific subjects. Most locations of the negative, oversize, and color packet formats are not listed on the finding aid and are listed on the cover of subject folders that contain positive images. These are accessible at the link: http://eslibrary.berkeley.edu/kemleecollection/kemleefilelist.htm  When only negatives, slides, or oversize photographs are available for a subject, the location is listed on the finding aid. The numbering system for negatives assigned by Kem Lee have been maintained and envelopes kept in their original order. Negatives without numbers were assigned numbers for location purposes.
    Lists of Chinese names were compiled for People: Men, Women, Man and Woman, Babies, Boys, Girls, Families, Groups; Community Leaders; Politicians; and Weddings. These include the known name, Chinese characters, pin yin, and also provide location of negatives corresponding to People. These lists are accessible at the link: http://eslibrary.berkeley.edu/kemleecollection/kemleefilelist.htm