The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is currently featuring the drawing All In One Room by Estelle Ishigo in their permanent exhibition The Story of We, the People. The drawing will be on display through November of 2014.
Estelle Peck Ishigo (1899-1990) is most well known as an artist who chronicled the experience at the Heart Mountain concentration camp.
Estelle Peck was born in Oakland in 1899 to parents of English, Dutch, French ancestry. Her family moved to Los Angeles and Estelle attended the Otis Art Institute, where she met Arthur Ishigo (1902-1957), a San Francisco-born Nisei who was working as a chauffeur for California Lieutenant Governor Robert Kenny. As anti-miscegenation laws at the time prohibited interracial couples from getting married, Peck and Ishigo took a trip across the border to Tijuana to be wed in 1928. Hoping for a career as an actor, Arthur worked as a janitor at Paramount Studios while Estelle worked as an art teacher. Shunned by her family, the couple lived among the Japanese American community.
With the outbreak of World War II and the removal of all West Coast Japanese Americans to inland concentration camps, the couple faced a dilemma. As a Nisei, Arthur was required to be removed while his wife was not. Though he wanted her to stay behind, she accompanied her husband, first to the Pomona Assembly Center in California, and then to Heart Mountain, Wyoming.
Throughout the war years, Estelle drew, sketched, and painted what she saw, providing a valuable document of life in the American concentration camps. “Strange as it may sound, in this desolate, lonely place I felt accepted for the first time in my life,” she later wrote of her time at Heart Mountain. She and her husband remained at Heart Mountain in order to record the last days of the camp until it was officially closed. The Ishigos were given $25 and put on a train to the West Coast. “I felt as if I were part of a defeated Indian tribe,” she remembered later.
In 1990, filmmaker Steven Okazaki made a documentary of Estelle Ishigo’s life titled Days of Waiting. Estelle passed away before seeing the film, which went on to win an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
Estelle Ishigo’s story and drawings comprise an important aspect of the permanent collection at the National Museum. The Estelle Ishigo Collection can be seen on the Museum’s website at: janm.org/collections/estelle-ishigo-collection
What happens when a Museum changes exhibitions? Why is the area cordoned off so we can’t see what is going on inside? Common questions posed by National Museum visitors when they meet the Collections Management team and realize we are part of the select group that is behind the blacked out door during exhibition changes.
Here are a few images to help you glimpse behind the door!
(click to see the full images)
Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986
October 12, 2013 – February 9, 2014
Through a selection of images from comic books representing four turbulent decades, Marvels & Monsters illustrates how evolving racial and cultural archetypes defined America’s perceptions of Asians. For more information >>
In preparation for the opening of Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986, Collections staff received 38 special collections comic books from the Fales Library at NYU. The comics have arrived!
Comics featured include a Green Hornet from 1944, Yellow Claw from 1956, Wonder Woman from 1956, Justice League of America from 1967, Iron Man from 1969, Captain America from 1970, Batman from 1972, and many, many more!
Don’t miss out on the exhibition opening on Thursday, October 10th at 6 p.m. or the FREE fun-filled Target FREE Family Saturdays event on Saturday, October 12th from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
As the incoming Collections Manager at the Japanese American National Museum, I am amazed by the sheer depth of artifacts and artworks that comprise the Japanese American experience. Having admired the institution’s mission and values from an outside perspective, I am happy to become part of the thriving community that is “behind the house” in the collections at JANM.
It is the goal of the Collections Management and Access Unit (CMA) to preserve the collections for future generations and to utilize them to their fullest potential as ambassadors and storytellers for the Museum—for the collections are the cornerstone of the Museum. One wonderful way to achieve this potential is to use our temporary exhibitions as an entryway into exploring our own collections.
We are excited to have the opportunity to share some of JANM’s collection alongside the traveling exhibition, Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986, which comes to us from the NYU Fales Library & Special Collections. CMA and Education Staff realized the potential of pairing our collection of historical artifacts to enhance the exhibition in an unexpected way.
It is interesting to contemplate the idea that artist Chris Ishii never imagined Li’l Neebo sharing gallery space with Wonder Woman! A Miss Breed letter and Mine Okubo drawing in conversation with each other about the shared theme of comic books… who would’ve guessed?
Marvels & Monsters illustrates Asians and Asian Americans through racial and cultural archetypes and when paired with first person Japanese American narratives of concentration camp life told through comics, a differing perspective is shared. Through the cartoons of artist Chris Ishii’s Li’l Neebo and George Akimoto’s Lil Dan’l, artwork by Mine Okubo, and letters from young inmates to librarian Clara Breed, Museum visitors will glimpse how comics were used to express emotion and to retain a sense of normalcy in a less than ideal situation. These images, juxtaposed with the stereotypical Asian themes in U.S. comics, provide a place for reflection on the impact and power of storytelling through comics and the way in which this popular medium has shaped perceptions of history.
It is through collaborations such as these that the importance of the collections at JANM, through the stories and first person experiences of the Issei and Nisei generation, are linked to contemporary society.
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Marvels & Monsters: Unmasking Asian Images in U.S. Comics, 1942-1986 will be on display at the Japanese American National Museum from October 12, 2013 – February 9, 2014. For more information about the exhibition and related public programs, visit: janm.org/marvels-monsters
Margaret Zachow Wetherbee is the new Collections Manager at the Japanese American National Museum.
Miné Okubo (1912-2001) was all those things and more. We also venture to call her a documentarian and anthropologist for the way she captured life while incarcerated in the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, CA and Topaz, UT camp during World War II. Along with over 120,000 other Japanese and Japanese Americans, Okubo was confined behind barbed wire simply because of the way she looked. She took the opportunity to observe and record her experiences as shared in her seminal book Citizen 13660: “…I had the opportunity to study the human race from the cradle to the grave, and to see what happens to people when reduced to one status and condition.”
Due to a generous grant awarded to the National Museum by the National Endowment for the Humanities, we spent two years conserving, mounting, scanning and cataloging all of Okubo’s original drawings from Citizen 13660 in order to share her insight and talents with a larger audience.
Saturday, October 27, 2012
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Doheny Memorial Library
USC University Park Campus
Los Angeles history comes alive at the 7th-annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar. Organized by L.A. as Subject and presented by the USC Libraries, the annual event celebrates the diversity of Southern California’s history. For scholarly researchers, journalists, history buffs, and those simply interested in exploring the stories of Los Angeles, discovery awaits everyone at the Archives Bazaar. This event is free and open to the public.
The Archives Bazaar draws its strength from the breadth and variety of its participants’ collections. Large institutions such as the Autry National Center of the American West and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will be represented at the bazaar along with smaller organizations and private collections whose materials fill the gaps left in the city’s official history. Other participating organizations include the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the California African American Museum, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, and the Japanese American National Museum. In all, more than 70 archives are expected to be represented.
The USC Libraries serve as the host institution for L.A. as Subject, an alliance of libraries, museums, and other archival and cultural organizations. The relationship complements the USC libraries’ strong Regional History Collection and is a natural outgrowth of the libraries’ efforts to preserve and expand access to the primary sources of L.A. history.
I am happy to announce that we have completed the Local History Digital Resources Project (LHDRP) to digitize the Afton Dill Nance Papers and the images are now online!
In 2011, the National Museum was awarded the LHDRP grant to digitize this special collection of letters. Nance, who was a teacher in Palos Verdes during the outbreak of WWII, saved letters from her students, parents, and individuals who shared their thoughts of leaving Palos Verdes, their incarceration and their adjustment of life after camp.
Please check the Online Archives of California (OAC) and Calisphere websites to view this collection:
Have you ever wondered what happens to the artifacts you see hanging on walls or sitting in cases in a museum after an exhibition is over?
Here’s a little peek at our collections and production units’ staff at work deinstalling Momo Nagano’s “American Families” tapestry in the Taul & Sachiko Watanabe Gallery after the closing of the exhibition, American Tapestry: 25 Stories from the Collection.
The tapestry is back on its shelf in our climate controlled collections storage. You can see the hygrothermograph on the shelf above to monitor temperature and humidity.
So, that was just one object out of 25 stories presented in the exhibition. Others had special mounts, supports or cases with accompanying text panels. In Norman Mineta’s archival collection alone there were 31 boxes displayed on shelves enclosed within 3 cases. After all the objects are removed, or in the case of the “American Families” tapestry as objects are deinstalled, Collections staff write a condition report on the artifact which is updated in our collections management database. The artifact is rehoused and returned to storage or, if it is a loan, to loaning institution or individual, which is a whole other ball of wax.