Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters

A collaborative, community-based archaeology project about the history of Chinese workers at Stanford

Discovery: Science and History Work Together

The Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters site (ACLQ) is located in the Stanford University Arboretum. The site housed Chinese employees who worked across Stanford lands. They were instrumental in the creation and maintenance of the University’s iconic historic landscapes: the Arboretum, Palm Drive, the Oval, and the gardens of the Main Quadrangle. The site was occupied between the 1880s and 1925 when the last resident left and the buildings were demolished.

Historic maps show different locations and arrangements of buildings
“Four Seasons Flowers” is a commonly used pattern for Chinese ceramics
Historic maps show different locations and arrangements of buildings

During spring 2017, work within the project grid located a trash midden, likely associated with the Quarters’ kitchen. Archaeologists hand excavated a small trench through the midden, recovering Chinese ceramics and food remains that were typical of Chinese-style meals. The discovery of the ACLQ site shows how the study of historical documents, when combined with scientific survey methodology, can aid in locating of archaeological sites whose locations have been lost to time.

A gardener working in the grounds of the Stanford’s Palo Alto residence

Opportunity for Research, Education, and Engagement

The ACLQ presents a unique and important opportunity to engage scholars, students, and members of the Chinese American community to partner in studying the important role of Chinese employees in the founding and operating of Stanford University. Research at the ACLQ also contributes to important themes in the history of the American West and U.S.- China relations.

virtual exhibit

Chinese American at Stanford: A Reflexive Archaeology

This student-curated exhibit produced by Bright Zhou (Class of 2016) during an independent study course taught by Christina J. Hodge presents evocative items excavated from the Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters site and the Stanford Mansion on campus lands.

University Archives

Topic Guide

The University Archives is proud to collaborate with the Stanford Archeology Center, Heritage Services, and the Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters Project in an effort to document and share with the public primary sources relating to early Chinese and Chinese Americans at Stanford.

To that end, we have created a Topic Guide to our collections, which include various records from Leland Stanford’s Palo Alto Stock Farm, scrapbooks, photographs, diaries, and maps. All of these materials are available for research use by the general public. Although no appointment is necessary for visiting, our materials are stored offsite so please order materials ahead of your visit.

For more information on visiting us and using our collections please visit

Questions can be sent to

Image provided by the Stanford University Libraries

The Team

Barbara L. Voss (on Sabbatical September 2020 – August 2021)

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology Faculty Advisor, Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters Project

I am a historical archaeologist who studies transnational cultural encounters. My research on 19th century migration from southern China includes the Market Street Chinatown Archaeology Project in San Jose, California; the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project; and the Cangdong Village Archaeology Project in Guangdong Province. On the Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters Project, I provide academic mentoring, coordinate research partnerships, and participate in heritage stakeholder consultation.

Christina J. Hodge

Academic Curator and Collections Manager, Stanford University Archaeology Collections

I am a museum anthropologist and historical archaeologist engaged in decolonizing museum practices and social archaeologies of colonial America. I lead the Stanford University Archaeology Collections, a museum quality collection of artifacts from around the world, including from campus lands. SUAC will be the permanent home for the material finds and documentary archive from the Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters Project. I currently serve an advisory and logistical role relating to the documentation and care of ACLQ collections.

Heritage Services

We are a team of Stanford staff archaeologists and historians managing the Asian American Heritage Survey effort and providing support in archival research, mapping, data recovery, and collections processing for the Arboretum Chinese Labor Quarters project. We work towards evaluating and preserving the heritage of Stanford campus and the surrounding lands.

Dylan Bergersen, Archaeology Technician

Julie Cain, Historian & Historic Preservation Planner

Lauren Conway, Heritage Program Coordinator,

Laura Jones, University Archaeologist and Director, Heritage Services

Koji Lau-Ozawa, Archaeologist, PhD candidate

Shane Martin, Archaeology Technician

Carol Porter, Heritage Data Systems & Facilities Coordinator

Marco Ramos Barajas, Archaeology Technician

Katrinka Reinhart, Archaeologist

Garrett Trask, Staff Archaeologist,

Suzanne Ubick, Archaeologist


Affiliated Researchers

Megan R. Victor, Queens’ College, City University of New York,

J. Ryan Kennedy, University of New Orleans

Virginia Popper, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Veronica Peterson, Harvard University


If you would like to find out more or receive project updates, please subscribe to our mailing list or contact us through social media @ACLQProject. We look forward to hearing from you!