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Hidden Portals

Hands holding phone of portal to Chinatown as person with tiger mask poses in front of Library building

Hidden Portals Site »

Library of Congress Event Map

May 11 Family Day Mask-making Workshop»

Hidden Portals was a May 20204 event as part of the "Seeing Lost Enclaves" project by Innovator in Residence Jeffrey Yoo Warren.

Library of Congress 2023-2024 Innovator in Residence Jeffrey Yoo Warren invited the public to visit a series of virtual installations on the Library's Washington, DC campus and five historic Asian American sites around the country. Accessible by mobile device, the experimental Hidden Portals event provded an immersive 3D reconstruction of these neighborhoods developed with archival photographs and records from local and Library of Congress collections.

Hidden Portals could be found in designated public spaces in five selected cities where early historic Chinese American and Korean American communites once thrived:

  • Providence, Rhode Island on Empire Street between Washington Street & Chapel Street
  • Portland, Oregon on SW 18th Avenue between SW Madison Street & SW Salmon Street
  • Hanford, California on China Aly between N Green Street & White Street
  • Truckee, California at Donner Pass Road & Spring Street
  • Riverside, California at Cottage Street & Commerce Street

During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month from May 1 through 31, members of the public followed maps to experience the five Hidden Portal sites around the U.S. Visitors at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. can also use their smartphones to find each of the 3D reconstructions hidden in locations around the Library’s campus. Through collaborations with local Asian American artists and experts, Yoo Warren developed a fully mobile experience in which visitors can immerse themselves in the unique sights and sounds of these long-ago neighborhoods.

Families with children ages 6-12 were also invited to visit the Library for a mask-making workshop with Yoo Warren as part of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Family Day on May 11. Attendees created cardboard virtual reality masks in the shape of a tiger’s head and used them to visit each of the Hidden Portals.

Artist Statement from 2023-2024 Innovator in Residence Jeffrey Yoo Warren

In 2018, I learned that the block where I live in Providence, RI was once the site of a thriving Chinese American community of which there was no trace. As a visual artist, I felt compelled to recreate the stretch of Empire street as a 3D experience, which I slowly pieced together from research in local archives and in speaking with descendants. Over my time as Innovator in Residence I've published a toolkit about my approach, and began collaborative reconstructions of other similarily erased Asian American neighborhoods from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

For the month of May, at the sites of these 5 historical erased Asian American communities, including my current home in Providence, RI, portals have been hidden in plain sight. When you approach, the portals will open, allowing a glimpse into virtually reconstructed, immersive moments from their pasts which I and my collaborators have spent the past two years crafting from archival records and photographs, oral histories and other clues.

This project has been a powerful way for me to connect with and learn about some of the earliest Asian American communities, and I hope it will be especially meaningful for Asian American families this month.

More about Jeff and the Seeing Lost Enclaves project.

Hidden Portals Help

Tips and tricks for using the app on your mobile device.

  1. The portal is not opening for me.

    You may need to refresh the page or confirm your location accuracy settings are on.

  2. I’m having an issue with my maps app. Do you have a different map I could use?

    Yes! Jeff drew one for the Library of Congress sites.

  3. How can I learn about the place I’m seeing in the portal?

    Single tap the portal to expand it and then tap the narration button in the upper right hand corner of your screen. You can also read about the history below the community name in the carousel.

  4. The portal seems frozen.

    For some newer iPhone models, the gyroscope needs extra permissions. For phones that do not support motion, users can manually move the portal by dragging with their finger.

  5. How do I turn my location accuracy settings on?


    Also see Google’s documentation.

    Swipe up from bottom of screen as if to switch apps. Tap and hold the browser icon which appears above the window (shown here as the multicolor Chrome browser icon)
    A screenshot of an android phone

    Select “App info”.
    A screenshot of an android phone

    Under App Info select “Permissions”
    A screenshot of an android phone

    Under App permissions select “Location”.
    A screenshot of an android phone

    Under Location permissions select “Allow only while using the app”. And turn on “precise location”.
    A screenshot of an android phone


    Also see Apple’s documentation.

    Under Settings select “Privacy & Security”.
    A screenshot of an apple phone

    Under Privacy & Security select “Location Services” and turn on. And “Precise location” should be on.
    A screenshot of an apple phone

    Under Location Services select your preferred browser (e.g. Firefox, Chrome, Safari).
    A screenshot of an apple phone

    Under your browser select “While Using the App” and ensure “Precise Location” is on.
    A screenshot of an apple phone

  6. I’ve tried all these things but I still don’t see a portal.

    • Make sure you have a stable data or wifi connection.
    • Select the map pin button for the community you want to see and ensure you are in the correct location.
    • Make sure you have the Hidden Portals site open.
    • Make sure your phone’s operating system and apps are up to date.
  7. I’m still experiencing issues.

    Email us at and describe your issue in as much detail as you can. Thank you!

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