Our newest, most current exhibit, Xploration Lab, is a part-classroom, part-prototype “black box” exhibit. Visitors can participate and experiment with hands-on activities designed to engage audiences of all ages about the World War II Japanese American experience.
In laying the groundwork for X-Lab, our team of curators, education specialists, media arts producers and designers envisioned an exhibit that would uniquely grab the attention of visitors—spawning the development of several activities. Some of these activities include a vintage 1940s-era radio that you can tune to World War II broadcasts; J.A. Express, which is a video montage encapsulating several decades of Japanese American pre-War history into 180 seconds; and an “only what you can carry” chamber, which emulates the urgency facing families who were forced to pack their lives into a single suitcase in preparation for removal as President Roosevelt decreed in Executive Order 9066.
The exhibition team genuinely wanted to consider how our visitors would react to X-Lab. In order to capture these reactions, we installed a large touchscreen iMac–equipped with a webcam and a microphone. This was used to record visitor responses to our thought-provoking questions, such as:
“Imagine if the government suspected you of being disloyal, how would you respond?”
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.
The Watase Media Arts Center’s award-winning film, Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray is going to be shown on Comcast throughout the month of May!
About the film:
Having smuggled a lens and film holder into one of America’s concentration camps during World War II, Toyo Miyatake was among the first to photograph this national disgrace. Yet it was his little-known artistic pursuits before the war that honed his discerning eye.
Produced by Karen L. Ishizuka and directed by Robert A. Nakamura with music by David Iwataki, the film is a penetrating portrait of the photographer’s quest to capture the beauty and dignity of everyday life.
The film has won numerous awards, including:
* Official Sundance Film Festival Selection
* Grand Jury Award Best Documentary Short, Florida Film Festival
* CINE Gold Eagle
See it on Comcast this month:
Comcast has a video on demand service called “Cinema Asian America” which was launched in December 2010, featuring a monthly-curated series of Asian American and Asian films—award-winning films fresh from the film festival circuit and classics. These films include both short and feature-length works and the genres range from documentary to narrative to experimental.
From May 1–31, 2011, Toyo Miyatake will be available to all Comcast digital cable subscribers with On-Demand. See below for a list of all major Comcast markets in the U.S. The film will cost $0.99/view.
For those who are able to view Comcast programs, through their digital cable menu, viewers should click on the “On Demand” button, and then look under the “Movies” folder. In this will be a “Movie Collections” folder and inside of this viewers will find “Cinema Asian America” and will be able to access the film.
(The recently released DVD includes Japanese subtitles & includes Moving Memories as a bonus feature. Hosted by George Takei, it features restored and edited home movies from the 1920s and 1930s taken by Japanese American immigrant pioneers as they made America their new home.)
Comcast TV Market:
Birmingham, AL • Dothan, AL • Huntsville, AL • Little Rock, AR • Tucson, AZ • Fresno, CA • Sacramento, CA • San Francisco, CA • Santa Barbara, CA • Colorado Springs, CO • Denver, CO • Hartford, CT • Washington DC • Ft. Myers, FL • Jacksonville, FL • Miami, FL • Orlando, FL • Panama City, FL • Pensacola, FL • Tallahassee, FL • Tampa, FL • West Palm Beach, FL • Atlanta, GA • Augusta, GA • Savannah, GA • Peoria, IL • Chicago, IL • Champaign, IL • Rockford, IL • Ft. Wayne, IN • Indianapolis, IN • South Bend, IN • Charleston, KY • Paducah, KY • Louisville, KY • Monroe, LA • New Orleans, LA • Shreveport, LA • Boston, MA • Springfield, MA • Baltimore, MD • Salisbury, MD • Detroit, MI • Kansas City, MO • Minneapolis, MN • Columbus, MS • Hattiesburg, MS • Jackson, MS • Albuquerque, NM • New York, NY • Youngstown, OH • Portland, OR • Harrisburg, PA • Johnstown, PA • Philadelphia, PA • Pittsburgh, PA • Wilkes-Barre, PA • Charleston, SC • Chattanooga, TN • Knoxville, TN • Memphis, TN •Nashville, TN • Tri-Cities, TN • El Paso, TX • Houston, TX • Salt Lake City, UT • Richmond, VA • Roanoke, VA • Seattle, WA • Spokane, WA • Wheeling, WV
Jero (Jerome Charles White Jr.)
Jero is a Hapa (Japanese/African-American) from Pittsburg, PA. His close relationship with his grandmother inspired his dream of becoming an enka singer in Japan, highlighted by his appearance on the Kohaku Uta Gassen in 2008
We recently honored cartoonist Stan Sakai at our 2011 Gala Dinner where he was awarded the Cultural Ambassador Award.For those of you who are not familiar with his work, he’s best known for his iconic character, Usagi Yojimbo—a samurai rabbit in feudal Japan, which he created in 1984.
His comic books have been translated into a dozen languages and in Empire magazine’s list of greatest comic book characters of all time, Usagi Yojimbo placed 31st, ahead of Green Lantern, Daredevil, and Hellboy!
We’re also working with Stan on a retrospective exhibition of his work that opens on July 9. Our award-winning Watase Media Arts Center staff is working on a short documentary to accompany the exhibition. Last summer they went to the Comicon in San Diego where they interviewed some of his fellow cartoonists who all agreed that he’s one of the nicest guys in the business. After meeting him, we all agree and can’t wait for his exhibition!
Chris Komai, the Public Information Officer at JANM, wrote an article about Stan for the Gala Dinner journal. It’s now online on our Discover Nikkei site:
I often take for granted how easy it is to follow breaking news. To find out what happened during a raid on a compound in Pakistan, I can turn on a 24-hours news channel or click on a few links to get caught up.
But 50 years ago the medium of television was new. And 50 years ago today, the first buses of Freedom Riders (and three reporters) left Washington, D.C. and headed South to test Boynton v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that had desegregated interstate travel. What followed changed the course of the United States history.
JANM was honored to have been selected as the West Coast venue for this program and streamed the Webcast to a live audience of students from LAUSD’s Civitas School of Leadership and Ribet Academy. Following the Webcast, Dr. Robert and Mrs. Helen Singleton, two Los Angeles-based Freedom Riders, and Mr. Tamio Wakayama, a Japanese Canadian member of SNCC, were on a panel moderated by Dr. Sybil Jordan Hampton, a member of JANM’s Board of Trustees and herself an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. We were star struck!!!
This has gotten us thinking about how the Freedom Rides impacted Japanese Americans, and especially how it may have emboldened those in the Redress Movement. What were the Issei, Nisei, and Sansei who watched these images broadcast on national television (just as that medium was becoming commonplace) thinking and feeling as they watched the buses burning, the cruel racism, and brave individuals standing up for what was right?
What would you have been thinking if you had been watching those Freedom Riders make their way South under the “protection” of Boynton v. Virginia?
It’s not everyday that you meet an icon but, recently at the Museum we did. The photograph of Fumiko Hayashida and her daughter Natalie is one that has become an iconic image so often associated with the telling of the history of the Japanese American incarceration. At 100 years old, Mrs. Hayashida is the oldest surviving person from Bainbridge Island, Washington who was incarcerated at Manzanar Concentration Camp.
Last Wednesday, Mrs. Hayashida and Natalie were part of a group that visited the Museum through the Only What We Can Carry Project, which I was very excited to learn more about. Through this project, Bainbridge Island educators are partnered with current and former residents of Bainbridge Island who experienced the World War II removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans. Together, they retrace the 1942 journey of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island to Manzanar. JANM was lucky enough to host this wonderful group for a couple of hours when they stopped by on their way to Manzanar.
As the group was lead through our Common Ground exhibition by the dynamic docent duo of Babe and Mary Karasawa, one of my most memorable moments was when they approached the large photograph of the Bainbridge Island community on the ferry dock as they were leaving the island in 1942. The Hayashidas, Frank Kitamoto, and Lily Kodama who were all in the group started to point themselves out in the photograph. “That’s me, right there.” This is a photograph I’ve seen hundereds of times since it is so prominently displayed in our gallery, but to see it with this group took it beyond being a historical image among many on our wall. It became a very personal photograph of an exact memory of very real people.
As someone who has the great privilege of working with educators and has witnessed what an essential part they can play in the teaching of the Japanese American experience, I was especially interested in meeting this group. We often think about how we won’t always have the first-person experience of camp but, watching our new friends leave the Museum to began their long car ride to Manzanar, I was reminded that in a way, first-person experiences of camp continue to be created today. The school teachers in this group will take what they’ve experienced on this journey back to their school and back to their students and they will share their own personal experiences of camp. What a wonderful way to keep the legacy alive through new personal histories.
In 1942, the first Civilian Exclusion Order issued was for Bainbridge Island and as a result, it was the first community of Japanese Americans to be forcibly removed from homes with just a few days to prepare. For more on Bainbridge Island, be sure to come by the Museum on Saturday, April 30 at 2:00 pm to learn more about this unique community. There’ll be a Bainbridge Film Festival featuring films by Lucy Ostrander, including Fumiko Hayashida: The Woman Behind the Symbol, a film about one of JANM’s most memorable visitors.
Evan Kodani was the 2010 Getty Media Arts Intern.He recently graduated from UCLA with a degree in communications.The internship was, by far, one of his most valuable college experiences, improving his skills in editing, videography, and understanding of what a real work environment feels like.It also got him a girlfriend.
Henry & Helen Yasuda are two of the Museum’s very dedicated volunteers. Henry primarily helps with giving tours to visitors from Japan. Helen is a docent for student groups, works with the community outreach committee, and helps out in many other ways. Last year, Helen received our Miki Tanimura Outstanding Volunteer Award, and recently they joined the Museum’s Legacy Society.
They’re also very committed to their family and very active in other community organizations like the Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo, the Yamaguchi Kenjinkai, and the Nikkei Parents’ Day Coalition.