Producing Japanese American History

We published a wonderful series of five articles by Dean Ryuta Adachi on our DiscoverNikkei.org site about various artifacts from JANM’s permanent collection. Dean is a PhD candidate in American History at Claremont Graduate University and is an active volunteer at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. I “met” him through the Discover Nikkei Twitter account several years ago and have kept in touch. When he found out that he would be down in Los Angeles last fall to be a lecturer of Asian American Studies at Harvey Mudd College, he offered to come in as a volunteer during his spare time.

Namyo Bessho
Gift of Indiana Bessho (92.81.2)

Dean worked with Programs, Discover Nikkei, and Collections staff to go through some of the little-known collections in our archives, and then share about them through Discover Nikkei. Here are links to the five articles in the “Producing Japanese American History: An exploration through the JANM archives” series. They include images of various artifacts from the collections.

Part 1 – History is Made: Namyo Bessho
Did you know that there was an Issei in the US Navy during the Spanish-American War?

Learn about how Namyo Bessho became a citizen in 1919 and then had it taken away >>

1948 article from Copenhagen, Denmark about John Nitta and chick sexing

Part 2 – History is Told: S. John Nitta

John Nitta played a significant role in the establishment of the chick sexing industry in the United States, but as Dean looked past the many awards in his collection, he found “plenty of unrelated hidden gems.”

Learn about his story >>

 

 

Estelle Ishigo
Gift of Mary Ruth Blackburn (2000.103.12)

Part 3 – History is Ignored: Estelle Ishigo
Estelle Ishigo was a Caucasian artist who went with her Nisei husband to Heart Mountain in Wyoming during World War II. She authored the book Lone Heart Mountain which included the drawings she did while in camp. She was the subject of Steven Okazaki’s Academy Award winning film Days of Waiting (1990). Yet, most of what we know is about her art. Dean’s exploration of JANM’s collection revealed artifacts that shared aspects about her personal life, and especially her deep love for her husband Arthur.

Read Estelle’s story >>

MacWilliamson radio
Gift of Joyce MacWilliamson (2001.120.1)

Part 4 – History is Lost: Joyce MacWilliamson

You may recognize the radio in part 4 from the American Tapestry exhibition. It is a beautiful shortwave radio, with a mysterious past that will most likely never be known. Left with Ramon “Mac” MacWilliamson by a Japanese American friend during World War II, he and his daughter always hoped to be able to return it the original owners after the war. After the story was posted on Discover Nikkei, Joyce MacWilliamson, the person who donated the radio to the museum, posted a comment, “Thank you for keeping hope alive that the rightful owner or his family will be found.”

Learn about her search and why she decided to donate the radio to JANM >>

Letter from Pvt. Masao Shigezane
Gift of Jane Van Blaricom (2001.72.58)

Part 5 – History is Found: Sumi and Masao Shigezane

The final part of the series ended with a surprising connection to a UCLA student’s project on Discover Nikkei. His search through JANM’s archives started with James G. Lindley, project director of the Amache camp during WWII, and led to the Shigezane family.

Read about this emotional journey >>

Dean Ryuta Adachi

I’d like to thank Dean for his work on unearthing and sharing these amazing stories. Many thanks also to Patricia Wakida who initiated this project, Yoko Nishimura for working so hard to get the stories online, and to JANM’s collections staff (Nikki Chang, Tomi Yoshikawa, Jane Nakasako, and Yoko Shimojo) for all their help in providing access and working with Dean during his time at JANM. Our CMA staff are the unsung heroes that work really hard behind-the-scenes at JANM!

Documenting Manzanar

We recently finished posting a wonderful essay about the documentation of Manzanar during World War II by Nancy Matsumoto on our Discover Nikkei website. It’s quite an extensive piece which we posted in 18 parts. There’s also great historic photographs that accompany each part.

Source: War Relocation Authority Photographs of Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement Series 8: Manzanar Relocation Center

Documenting Manzanar
By Nancy Matsumoto
Read the essay >>

The article focuses especially on three photographers—Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and Toyo Miyatake, but also about the documentation of Manzanar in art and in books by artists and authors like Miné Okubo, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and Michi Weglyn.

It also examines various books and exhibitions, including the Ansel Adams exhibition here at JANM. It also references Two Views of Manzanar, an exhibition and book created by graduate students in the UCLA Fine Arts Program in the late 1970s. One of the students was Patrick Nagatani, whose works will be on display here in a retrospective exhibition opening next weekend.

As I’m writing this, I realize that we have something in our collections, exhibitions, and projects related to pretty much all of these things I’ve mentioned. We’ve just released the Farewell to Manzanar DVD based on the book & screenplay written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and her husband. Our collections staff is currently working on a project to conserve & digitize Miné Okubo’s original drawings from Citizen 13660 (generously
supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ “We The People” project), and we have original design sketches by Michi Weglyn from her days as a costume designer in New York.

These types of realizations tend to happen often. That’s one of the great things about working at the museum so long…getting to see how different aspects of our history and culture fit together. It also goes to show how inter-related the Japanese American community is!

Interview with Patrick Nagatani

We recently interviewed artist Patrick Nagatani and his upcoming retrospective exhibition opening at JANM next weekend. Check out the article on our Discover Nikkei website:

Seeing Beauty Through a Magic Lens: Patrick Nagatani and 35 Years of Art
By Darryl Mori
Read the interview >>

We also just launched the exhibition site which includes more information, including:

– short blurbs about the various series included in the exhibition

– prompts for the upcoming Guide by Cell audio guide that is being prepared with Patrick Nagatani

– an article about the exhibition by Lisa Sasaki who coordinated the travel of the show from the University of New Mexico’s University Art Museum. This is my favorite quote from the artist about why Nagatani feels that JANM is a perfect venue for the exhibition:

“This is the place that my parents will come to see my work. This is the place where it belongs.”

Check out the exhibition site >>

Photo courtesy of Karen Kuehn

GIDRA magazine

Our award-winning Watase Media Arts Center recently produced ten new videos for the Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism exhibition (on view through February 19, 2012).

For those who can’t make it down to see the exhibition or prefer to watch it from the comfort of your own home, we will be sharing them online over the next few months.

The first video up is about Gidra, the seminal magazine of the Asian American movement published from April 1969 to April 1974.

We also have scans from 4 full issues on Discover Nikkei:
April 1969 (first issue) | January 1971February 1973April 1974 (final issue)

For those of you who worked on, contributed to, or read Gidra, please take this survey: Did you Gidra survey >>

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We’ll be posting new videos weekly. So check back for the links.

We’re pulling them together into a Drawing the Line playlist on our JANM YouTube channel too.

All of the videos are also available on DVD from the Museum Store: Drawing the Line DVD >>

Seinan Panel on Sun, October 30

“Seinan” is an area in Southwest Los Angeles, California, where a thriving Japanese American community existed before World War II.

Japanese American Living Legacy has gathered stories and personal experiences from people who lived in Seinan before World War II in the book published earlier this year, Seinan: Southwest Los Angeles, Stories and Experiences from Residents of Japanese Ancestry.

Join us this Sunday for a program in partnership with JA Living Legacy.

With moderator Ray Uyemura, four panelists—Ansho Mas Uchima, Minoru Shinmoto, Christine Uriu, and Thomas Shigekuni—will share stories about Seinan, including about the community’s religious groups, language schools, public schools, and social clubs.

There will be a book signing following the program.

SEINAN PANEL
Sunday, October 30, 2011 • 2pm
Japanese American National Museum

Come hear how Southwest Los Angeles was a thriving Nisei community that was almost wiped out with the forced removal and events of World War II.

For more information >>

Presented in collaboration with JA Living Legacy and the Japanese American National Museum.

 

We are sharing a chapter from the book on our Discover Nikkei website (parts 1 & 2 are now online, with the final part being posted this Sunday):

Shinmoto Family
By Minoru Shinmoto
Read the article >>

 

“Farewell to Manzanar” screening with Director John Korty!

Our Farewell to Manzanar screening is coming up this Sunday! The special guest will be Director John Korty who will participate in a Q&A following the screening.

One of our volunteers recently interviewed the award-winning director for our Discover Nikkei website about how he got into filmmaking, and about making Farewell to Manzanar into a film.

Read the interview >>

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If you haven’t already purchased tickets for this special screening, here’s the info:

Farewell to Manzanar screening
Japanese American National Museum
Sunday, October 23, 2011 • 2pm
Join Director John Korty for a Q&A following the screening!

$25 Members; $30 non-members, includes admission and a complimentary copy of the DVD.

Purchase tickets >>

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If you can’t make it to the screening, you can also order copies of the DVD from the Museum Store. The DVD includes bonus features: the Remembering Manzanar documentary created for the Manzanar National Historic Site; and an interview with Jeanne Wakatasuki Houston from when she was honored at the Museum’s 2006 Gala Dinner.

Order the DVD from the Museum Store >>

View video clips from the interview on Discover Nikkei >>

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

Drawing the Line opening tonight!

The opening celebration for Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles is just a couple of hours away!

Join us tonight from 5:30 to 8pm to celebrate the opening members, many of the artists and their families & friends, and special guests. There’ll be a special performance by Nobuko Miyamoto with Benny Yee & Atomic Nancy!

Our staff & volunteers have been working hard to get the show ready to open. Along with the artwork & artifacts, our Watase Media Arts Center has developed new video segments about each of the featured artists. You’ll be able to view them in the exhibition, but will also be available for sale on a DVD through the Museum Store. There’s also a Guide by Cell audio guide with audio clips from the interview.

Check out the updated exhibition site for more info on the Guide by Cell, to see the bios for the featured artists, plus links to full scans from 4 issues of Gidra magazine on Discover Nikkei! There’s also more exhibition-related public programs added (more to come!).

NEW! How to do your own oral history interview tutorial on Discover Nikkei

Have you ever wanted to record the history of your grandparents, your parents, or other people in your life?

In 2009, Cole Kawana was a sixth grader at Seven Arrows School. His assignment was to do a service-learning project, and so with the help of his extended family, he conducted an oral history interview with his great-uncle, Arthur Ichiro Murakami, who is a Hiroshima atomic bomb survivor.

In addition to the oral history, he decided to create a video tutorial so that he could teach and encourage his fellow students to try it for themselves.

His video tutorial was shown as part of Xploration Lab this past spring. It’s now also on the Museum’s Discover Nikkei website.

We’ve split the tutorial up into segments, with each one going over different steps in the process, including equipment, preparation, conducting the interview, and follow-up.

In addition to Cole’s tutorial video clips, we’ve added a downloadable checklist and sample release form. We’re also working on sample questions and translating everything into the other site languages (Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese).

At the end of the page, you can view the interview that Cole conducted with his great-uncle, plus links to additional online oral history resources.

Check out the tutorial on Discover Nikkei >>

Many thanks to Cole and his family for letting us share his video! Thanks to Sam Arbizo, Esther Newman, Yoko Nishimura, and Geoff Jost for working to get the tutorial online!

 

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: