Alixa Naff: Historian of Arab-American immigrants

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The Independent Online

Alixa Naff, who died on 8 June aged 93, was a pioneering historian who documented the lives of the first wave of Arab-American immigrants a century ago. Naff, who mmoved from what is now Lebanon as a toddler, is perhaps best known for a collection of oral histories and artifacts that she donated to the Smithsonian and which is still available for scholarly research at the National Museum of American History.

The collection, named for her parents Faris and Yamna Naff, contains more than 2,000 photos, 450 oral histories and 500 artifacts such as personal and household goods. Naff traveled the country in a blue Volkswagen Beetle nicknamed "the camel" to collect the histories, and used her powers of persuasion to convince people to give up treasured family items to be included in the collection. Items in the collection include musical instruments, clothing and a kibbe pounder, a large stone used to make a traditional Middle Eastern dish.