JANM Hosts “Common Ground Conversations” Beginning This Week

The recent election has brought many social and political issues to the forefront of American consciousness. Stoked by sensationalistic news coverage, debates and statements have often been heated and not always productive. To counteract this phenomenon, we at the Japanese American National Museum thought we would try a different tactic. Thus, to begin this new year, we invite you to join us in connecting with other museum visitors in a search for “common ground.”

Beginning on January 12, JANM will present a four-week series of public conversations taking place in the galleries of our core exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community. Elements of the exhibition, which chronicles 130 years of Japanese American history through hundreds of objects, documents, and photographs, will serve as jumping-off points to start each week’s conversation. Sessions will take place on consecutive Thursday evenings from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and each one will focus on a different topic. Staff members from the museum’s education department will lead and facilitate the discussions.

Following are the topics for each conversation:

January 12: Compassion
January 19: Transparency
January 26: Speaking out
February 2: Solidarity

Our hope is that Common Ground Conversations will generate meaningful dialogue centered on each week’s topic, using Japanese American history to delve into contemporary issues and current concerns. No tickets or RSVPs are required. Common Ground Conversations coincide with JANM’s free admission on Thursdays starting at 5 p.m.

We hope you’ll join us!

Visiting the Heart of Community

Every week, hundreds of visitors view JANM’s core exhibition, Common Ground: The Heart of Community. While the story resonates strongly with Japanese American visitors, who can see their own family histories in it, the importance of community is something that can be felt and understood by visitors from all different backgrounds. The exhibition begins with an introductory panel, which sets the stage for a story of immigrants:

Community is not just where you live.
Community is also about who you are.

Immigration is central not only to the Japanese American experience, but that of all Americans:

We are on common ground with all Americans,
with all people.

Mine Okubo, Dining with friends in Berkeley, California, ca.1939–1941, 1942–44. Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Mine Okubo Estate.

The exhibition traces Japanese American history through the struggles of immigrant mothers and fathers, the trauma of World War II and the concentration camps, and the ongoing quest to find a place in this country. Through it all, the importance and fluidity of the concept of community is explored; it is both an ideal to aspire to, and a source of comfort during trying times. Common Ground closes with a look to the future:

Community persists—
in the stories we tell each other,
in the stories we tell others.

As we reinvent America,
from monolithic to multicultural,
to include all of us
in all our magnificent diversity,
we forever re-vision the American experience.

Visitors of all ages, ethnicities, and cultures are invited to explore their own history and appreciate the differences among us while also remembering our similarities. By doing so, we reflect on and create what it really means to be American.

Just announced! JANM presents Common Ground Conversations, a four-week series of themed public conversations inspired by Common Ground: The Heart of Community. Read our press release for complete information.

Girl Scout Patch Program — new date added!

Due to an overwhelming demand, we are adding one more date to our Girl Scout Patch Program. We hope you can join us…

Date: Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Time: 1 pm – 3 pm (registration will begin at 12:45 pm)

What you will do:

– Guided visit of our exhibition Common Ground: The Heart of Community

– Self-guided visit of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

– Hands-on origami making session

– Receive a special JANM patch

Price: $10/person (for each scouts, for each adult, for each sibling)

RSVP: education@janm.org. In your rsvp, please be sure to include (a) the name of each scout; (b) the age of each scout; (c) the name of each sibling; (d) the name of each adult. Space is limited and advance registration is required.

This is a great chance for Scouts to see the Folding Paper exhibition before it closes on August 26.

Photos by Richard Watanabe and Richard M. Murakami

Girl Scout Patch Program

 

We’re proud to announce a new Girl Scout Patch Program!

Date: Either July 29, 2012 (Sun) or August 4, 2012 (Sat)

Time: 11am – 1 pm

What you will do:

– Guided visit of our exhibition Common Ground: The Heart of Community

– Self-guided visit of Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami

– Hands-on origami making session

– Receive a special JANM patch (pictured above)

Price: $10/person, including scouts, adults, and siblings

RSVP: education@janm.org.  Space is limited and advance registration is required.

Please help us spread the word!

Car designer Larry Shinoda

When you walk into the museum now, one of the first things you notice as you enter the front doors to the Pavilion is a 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. I pass by the car every day on the way to my office, and I always see visitors stopping to admire it.

Photo by Gary Ono

But why a Corvette in the Japanese American National Museum?

It’s because it was designed by Japanese American automotive designer Larry Shinoda, and it’s part of the Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism exhibition on view through February 19, 2012.

Untitled drawing (Stingray), Larry Shinoda. Pencil on paper. Gift of the Shinoda Family, Japanese American National Museum (2003.124.3).

Upstairs in the exhibition galleries, we also have a number of his original drawings and sketches of various other cars he designed like the Mako Shark concept car, and the Boss Mustang. There’s also a bunch of historic photos, trophies, and other memorabilia that were donated to the museum by his family after his passing in 1997.

I have to admit that I don’t know much about cars, but the aerodynamic sporty style is very cool to see, and his personal story is very interesting too. His father died when he was a young child. From early on, he was always interested in cars and in drawing. He and his family were incarcerated at Manzanar during WWII. After the war, he grew up in Southern California where he built and raced cars, leading to his work designing and building cars.

The Watase Media Arts Center created a video about Shinoda for the exhibition with interviews with his sister and a long-time good friend:

The video is included on the exhibition DVD available for purchase through the Museum Store: Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles (DVD) >>

By the way…Shinoda didn’t just design cars. He also worked on pretty much anything that moves such as Roger Penske’s race trailers, motor homes, tractors, big rig trucks, and even the Goodyear Blimp logo. And for those who were wondering…no, he’s not related to the other famous Shinoda that we have featured at the museum!

One more bit of trivia…the wedding dress currently on display in our Common Ground exhibition was made by Larry Shinoda’s mother!

Volunteer Docent Sergio Holguin

For many people who visit the Museum, the highlight of their visit is often getting a tour from one of our many dedicated volunteer docents. Many of our docents share their own or their family’s first-hand experiences from World War II. However, as our older Nisei volunteers have slowed down a bit, the demand for docents is being increasingly met by those whose families were not incarcerated in America’s concentration camps.

Photo by Richard Watanabe

Although their experiences aren’t first-hand, their being there to share the Japanese American experience with our visitors is very important, and in some ways may even help non-JA visitor relate more with the stories.

One of our younger docents is Sergio Holguin, a computer science major at Cal Poly Pomona. Sergio is a third-generation Mexican American. He recently wrote a wonderful article for our Discover Nikkei website that shares how he became interested in Japanese American history, and why he decided to volunteer at the Museum.

Nisei? Sansei? No, I’m just a Gakusei
By Sergio Holguin
Read his article >>

*****

P.S. Here’s a 2009 article on Discover Nikkei about another non-JA Museum docent—Nahan Gluck:

The History of Japanese Americans from the Perspective of a German American: Mr. Nahan Gluck, docent for the Japanese American National Museum

30-second volunteer videos

Our volunteers are amazing. They continually inspire us with their dedication and enthusiasm. They are even willing to step outside their comfort zones if it means helping the museum to share the important stories of the Japanese American experience.

Since last summer, staff at our Watase Media Arts Center along with interns and volunteers have been working on a series of digital shorts that record many of our docents and other volunteers. The videos share the volunteer’s personal stories related to artifacts from our core Common Ground: The Heart of Community exhibition.

We’re collecting them together for easy access on our Discover Nikkei website. There are already 15 of the videos online, with more being added almost weekly.

Check out the volunteer videos on Discover Nikkei:

The 21st Century Museum: Significant artifacts selected by Japanese American National Museum Volunteers
http://5dn.org/janm-vols

Volunteers featured so far: Bob Uragami, Babe Karasawa, Yae Aihara, Richard Murakami, Yoko Horimoto, Jim Tanaka, Tohru Isobe, Mas Yamashita, Robert Moriguchi, Kathryn Madara, Kent Hori, May Porter, Eileen Sakamoto, Lee Hayashi, and Roy Sakamoto.

Here are the three most recently uploaded videos: