This study of Hmong baby carriers in Minnesota demonstrates the value of studying objects for what they convey about the people and the culture that make and use them. Hmong baby carriers have many functions, seen and unseen, that when examined and analyzed further an understanding and knowledge of Hmong culture in transition.
The Hmong living in Minnesota came to the United States as refugees from the war in Southeast Asia. They left their highland homes in Laos to wait out the conflict in refugee camps in Thailand. But returning home and to the life they longed for became impossible. So many Hmong found themselves living in the harsh climate of Minnesota. The first Hmong started arriving in 1976, eventually St. Paul became home for one of the largest populations of Hmong in the United States. Life has brought many challenges but the Hmong continue to adapt to change and thrive.
The McClung Fleming model for artifact analysis guided this study. The two part process identifies basic properties of the object and analyzes those properties through identification, evaluation, cultural analysis, and interpretation. Hmong baby carriers were brought by the 1st generation of Hmong immigrants to the United States as functional objects with symbolic and contextual meaning. Today Hmong baby carriers are still part of the cultural landscape but with added symbolism and contextual meaning for the 1.5 and 2nd generation of Hmong.