Throughout the year, there is a dedicated group of Museum volunteers who take photographs of our various events, exhibitions, artifacts, and more.
Led by volunteer extraordinaire Richard Murakami, these volunteers make sure that our events & exhibitions are well documented for posterity and promotion. Their photographs are used in our publications, ads, online, reports,funding proposals, and a variety of other ways big and small.
Our volunteer photographers include professionals, as well as a range of amateurs. Although their photography experience and equipment may vary, we really appreciate all of their dedication and enthusiasm.
The current roster of volunteer photographers include:
June Aoki, Caroline Jung, Russell Kitagawa, Daryl Kobayashi, Tracy Kumono, Richard Murakami, Nobuyuki Okada, Gary Ono, Tsuneo Takasugi, Ben Tonooka, Richard Watanabe. Other contributors: Hal Keimi.
These volunteers literally take thousands of photos each year. We thank them for their hard work and look forward to their pictures in 2012!
Visitors to the museum often remark that what made their experience so special was getting to hear and talk to our volunteer docents. They share stories with our visitors that bring the artifacts in our Common Ground: The Heart of Community to life.
An ongoing project at the museum has been for our staff & interns in the Watase Media Arts Center, curatorial, and education units to work with some of our volunteers to develop 30 second (approximately) short videos talking about their favorite artifacts from Common Ground. The project is part of an ongoing effort to examine and re-envision the role the Museum and our volunteers will play in the 21st Century.
This is a wonderful project to record and share the stories especially of some of our older long-time Nisei volunteers while they’re still active at the museum.
We’re now up to 25 volunteer videos online. The most common artifact selected is the Heart Mountain barracks which makes an appearance in 3 videos. Although most are World War II-related, several are about pre-war Issei and Nisei life. While many are very poignant, some are humorous, like Marion Wada’s selection of a Hershey’s chocolate tin which recalls fond memories of childhood prior to WWII.
For those connected with the museum or have gone on tours here, you’ll recognize a lot of very familiar and dear faces. I’ve included a few of the more recent videos here, but you can view all of the videos from our Discover Nikkei website or on YouTube. Which ones are your favorites?
We’d like to thank the participating volunteers for sharing their personal stories: Ike Hatchimonji, Charlene Takahashi, Icy Hasama, Marion Wada, Mary Karatsu, Hitoshi Sameshima, Bill Shishima, Nancee Iketani, Ben Tonooka, Pat Ishida, 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.
Funding for the Nisei Oral History project was provided by grants from the National Park Service and the California State Library through the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.
Support for volunteer programming was generously provided, in part, by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, and The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. The internships were provided through the Summer 2010 Getty Grants Program for Multicultural Undergraduate Internships to Los Angeles Area Museums & Visual Arts Organizations.
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.
But why a Corvette in the Japanese American National Museum?
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:
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles…the title says it all. But what can you really expect to see?
Paintings, sketches, photographs, video clips, historic documents, a trophy, a guitar, and a Corvette!
Then make plans to join us for the exhibition opening on Saturday, October 15 at 5:30pm. Some light refreshments, hear from curator Kris Kuramitsu, check out the exhibition, meet some of the artists, and take in a special performance by Nobuko Miyamoto with Benny Yee and Atomic Nancy!
We had a very special guest visit JANM on Wednesday! He said that he had been hoping to visit us for a while, so while he was in LA he dropped by for a quick tour. What an honor it was to have shaken the hand of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
On Sunday, September 18, the museum hosted a special sneak preview of the upcoming exhibition, Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilites of Origami for our Upper Level Members.
Meher McArthur, curator for the exhibition that will be opening at JANM in March 2012, gave a wonderful presentation about the history of origami in Japan, but also revealed a tradition of paper folding in Europe that surprised many in the audience.
Museum staff are collaborating with Meher on this exciting exhibition that will look at not just the origins and growth of paper folding, but also present an incredible selection of origami works from a diverse array of “folders” around the world. Not only do they represent countries like Japan, the U.S., France, Belgium, and Vietnam, they are diverse in their backgrounds as well. Some are artists and educators, while a large contingent are from math & science backgrounds.
In addition to the mind-blowing contemporary pieces, the exhibition will also include a section on the influence of origami on science, medicine, fashion, and architecture. A very special section will focus especially on the role of origami cranes as a symbol of global unity and world peace.
This exhibition is being produced to travel by International Arts and Artists, but the Museum is a co-developer and will be the originating venue. Our own origami expert, volunteer Ruthie Kitagawa, is helping to create examples of some of the traditional pieces. It will open at JANM on March 10, 2012 and will travel for 3 years.
Inspired by the documentary, Between the Folds, Meher is putting together an exhibition that will delight and inform kids, educators, mathematicians, artists, and everyone in between.
If you are interested in supporting this exhibition, call Sarah Carle at 213.830.5670 for information about sponsorship opportunities.
P.S. Meher will be guest-blogging here on our FIRST & CENTRAL JANM blog! Check back for updates from her and more behind-the-scenes sneak-peeks!
In true clichéd fashion, the last ten weeks have flown by. As I sit in the same desk, at the same borrowed computer, within the same borrowed space of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center wherein I wrote my very first blog post, I can’t believe how quickly this internship has come and gone.
In ten short weeks, I learned the ins and outs of media art construction, from working a camcorder (make sure your input mics are working, your indoor/outdoor light settings are correct, and you remember to press record) to the sometimes tedious essentials of editing on Final Cut Pro (Cross-Dissolve-Copy is one of the transition favorites among the staff) to the joys of a finished DVD and the triumph involved in pressing the PLAY button.
But more than this skill set, I feel overjoyed with the life lessons and friendships I am taking away from the experience. As I’ve mentioned many times over, I’m an English and Asian American Studies major. Living with girls majoring in Communications, Sociology, Art History, and Black Studies, the running joke for the last two years is that once we graduate, we’ll all have housing consisting of cardboard boxes with varying levels of finesse and artistic value, depending on the individual. As graduation time grows near, that joke has become less and less funny…
However, as my time as the 2011 Media Arts Intern comes to a close, I leave with my head held high. More valuable than the new skill set I’ve acquired and refined, I’m pleased with personal enlightenment I can take away. For years, I had resigned myself to the fact that if I wanted to devote my life to Japanese American history and the richness it holds, it would have to be a side hobby, hidden behind a steady, if less satisfying, “normal” job. My time at the Museum has shown me that one can find a career, and fulfillment exploring history, edifying others, and serving the community. It’s opened my eyes to the opportunities, and wonderful people available in the field.
I’ve been amazed by not only the wealth of compassion, kindness, and friendship the Museum has surrounded me in, but also the validation in knowing that there are so many others that share my passion, and have managed to make a career of it. All in all, my short time at the Museum has been life changing. As I write my final blog posting for the summer, I just want to share my extreme appreciation and thankfulness. I loved every second here at the Museum, and know it will be an experience I’ll never forget.
As a child, Little Tokyo was my stomping grounds. My mom was a member of the Little Tokyo Library, and it felt like every other weekend we made the hot car ride into LA just so I could sit in the back of her meetings with my coloring books. After the meetings, my brother and I loved playing on the huge two-rock sculpture in front of the JACCC. We frequented the JANM, visiting the Children’s Courtyard so we could see our names in the stone. But as we grew older and our schedules grew busier, the family visits in to LA eventually slowed.
Even though we were no longer in Little Tokyo, my brother and I still had shreds of our heritage to cling to. As children, we both attended culture camps, but closer to home, in Gardena. We tried to learn the language; I was sent to Gardena Buddhist Church every Saturday for a few grueling hours, trying to remember my rus from my ros, while my brother tried his luck at Gardena Valley JCI. Try as we might, the language evaded us year after year. Although we may have blundered while talking to Bachan, the one thing we were really able to get behind was Japanese carnivals.
While memories of those Saturdays may be a bit sour, I still look back fondly on the weekend carnivals that only summer could bring. Almost immediately after school ended, JCI carnival came to town. I remember it as the first taste of dango for the summer, the only Saturday my basketball coach ever let us off the hook for practice, and the only place for Pachinko. Not to mention the bake sale, Jingle Board, and the nice man on the second floor whose art class let you make one free bracelet (and would only smile if you went back to make a second free bracelet on Sunday).
My other childhood tradition came towards the end of the summer. Always the last of the season, Gardena Buddhist Church’s Obon would be the final chance for dango for a good nine months. As a child, Gardena Obon was where I’d see my friends all dressed up (those who were more organized in kimonos whose obis left them breathless, while the less formal of us wore hopi coats and flip flops). We’d dance the night away to the beat of the taiko drum, shuffling our feet in the chalk lines, only stopping with a final gassho before running to the Bounce House and Dime Toss in the parking lot.
For years, these memories were forgotten, pushed aside by the seemingly more pressing matters of school: “Where did I put my copy of The Woman Warrior; I need it for my 122 paper!” “I’ve run out of money on my copy card already?” “What days am I working this week…?” But with school on hold and my current daily commute in to Little Tokyo, I can’t help but be reminded of my roots. That, and a little help from my supervisor…
For the last eight weeks, my wonderful supervisor John has been practicing the traditional Obon dances. Even though he’s been to carnival a million times over, he’s never actually danced in one. This summer, I’ve had the privilege of watching him knock it off his bucket list.
Almost every week, John told me about how his dancing was coming along. Of how many songs there were, the difficulties of synching hand motions with dance steps on top of trying not to trip over the children running around that seemed to pick it up so quick. He even set up a tutorial session with an instructional DVD one day with some other Media Arts workers. The gang stood transfixed in front of the monitor, mimicking the steps, usually only a half a second or so too slow.
But John has improved leaps and bounds. This summer, he’s gone to not one, but several Obons, all over California. He’s seen and heard the different styles of Northern and Southern California, and sampled all the dango in between.
So I’d say for us both, our summers have culminated in a throw back to our roots, a nod towards our culture. For the first time in years, I’ve returned to my stomping grounds. This summer at Obon, I was amazed at all the familiar faces I saw. While my presence had lapsed, others from my past sill managed to attend the tradition of Obon. Beyond that, I saw many unfamiliar faces, of excited children who were making their own memories about the wonder of Obon. But, most surprisingly, standing in as my symbol of where my past and present met, I saw my supervisor John, dancing in his first season of Obon, to the beat of the taiko drum.