Afton Dill Nance Papers Online

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:

OAC—Click the Online items available link to view itemsOnline items available

Calisphere

An additional 100 images will soon be added to these two sites!

Afton Dill Nance
Letter from Shigeo Motoike to Afton Nance. 1942 May 6

Play ball!

Mori Shimada Collection (92.10.2Z)

 

I was going through JANM’s on-line collections and came across this image of baseball in camp. Look closely and you can see the iconic Heart Mountain looming in the background, behind the barracks. And in the foreground, did you notice the hats worn by the spectators? With this photo, I can just about hear, smell, and feel summer…

You can browse through the Mori Shimada Collection to see other pictures of life in Heart Mountain. And, in case you haven’t heard, if you want a chance to “feel” summer, there will be a multi-generational pilgrimage to Heart Mountain this August 10-11. Check Heart Mountain’s Web site for details!

Better than the Average Bear…or Should I say Rabbit?

I have been told that while perusing through a gallery space, the average person spends about 5 seconds in front of a work of art before moving on to another piece. I, myself, am guilty of this, as I have found myself racing through exhibits, which would take hours upon hours to properly absorb and appreciate. Although I have had the pleasure of being immersed in art from a variety of galleries and cultures, from the many we have here in Southern California to those on the East Coast and have seen a generous share works from renowned masters to local Michiganian artists, there unfortunately does not exist an encyclopedia of “Art Seen by Alexa” chronicling the art that I have seen in my lifetime. I’m one of the last people on this earth to have a photographic memory, so that’s understandable right? Pass by someone’s masterpiece and appreciate it for the time being, but soon it floats off into the deep dark abyss that are our forgotten memories. It happens. But I was recently taught the copious amounts of hard work that goes into us viewers being treated with eye-candy, museum style. And trust me, it deserves way more than the five-second glance us Plain Jane’s and Average Joe’s give it.

For the past few weeks, I have been given a taste into what it takes to bring an exhibition into fruition as we prepared for the opening of the museum’s new exhibit, Year of the Rabbit: Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo. I am not a nerd when it comes to the world of comic books, but educating myself in the world of Usagi Yojimbo was as easy as picking up a comic book, literally. Definitely something I wish I could have said for chemistry and calculus in high school. Portions of my past weeks have consisted of spending one-on-one time with Stan Sakai’s artwork as my fellow intern, Yuiko and I, transformed Stan’s works from being brilliant works on paper to being works on paper that are now matted, framed, and hanging in the galleries. Hours were spent in the Collections department as we measured, cut mats, drilled holes, and were reminded that our math skills were a little rusty from when we had last used them in high school.

Despite the refresher we needed on adding and subtracting, we successfully hauled plexi and frames around Collections and used power tools, which ultimately amounted into the works of Stan Sakai ready for your viewing pleasure. This was an invaluable opportunity to see original works up-close and personal as opposed to behind glass and a velvet rope. I am always a fan of not only final works, but the progress and process behind them and it was awesome to see the artist’s original pencil sketches underneath his final products in ink. At the end of our few weeks, everyone’s hard work was revealed and the museum’s new exhibition looks amazing! So if you’re ever in the mood to delve deeper into the world of Usagi Yojimbo or witness the culmination of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the finalization of this exhibit, come check out Year of the Rabbit!!!

– Alexa

A Summer for the Books

For many years my summers have consisted of friends, sunshine, and sleeping in, which some would like to call, lazing around and being the opposite of productive. However, this summer, I have been back in my home-state of California for about three weeks now and have spent two of those weeks at work, behind-the-scenes of the Japanese American National Museum as this summer’s curatorial intern, one of the three Getty interns this summer.

I am Alexa Kim, a soon-to-be second year at Kalamazoo College, in the little known city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Last year, I, a lifelong California girl, decided that I would be spending the next four years of my life, across the country, in the wild wild Midwest, a place where the winters are cold and the authentic Mexican food is scarce, a place I’ve learned to call home. I’m set on the path of becoming a full-blown art nerd, a.k.a. an art history major, since I discovered years ago that I would not make my living as an artist since the “art” I created, or attempted to create, resulted in works faintly resembling Picasso, when I had been aiming for more of a Caravaggio-esque look. If you don’t know who on earth I’m referring to, like I said, art nerd in training.

Bright and early every morning I hop on the train to commute to Little Tokyo, where I am greeted with the hustle and bustle of everyone grabbing their pre-work coffee fix at Starbucks, me included, and then proceed to head to my desk at the National Museum. I have been met with various projects here, but the majority of my time here will be spent in the Collections department. A room where one must always remember to bring a sweater because even though it may be a sweltering 90° outside, it is always a brisk 67° in Collections. Down there, safety first means putting artifact preservation above one’s preferential temperature level. Despite the chill, Collections is a candy store for little art historian children. As I have been becoming more and more acquainted with Japanese American history, every artifact I come across has an amazing story behind it just waiting and wanting to be told. Stories that will eventually be told, as we continue to work on the hefty task of creating a new exhibit, which will shed a new light onto the WWII story. What I will be doing at the museum this summer, is simply a small piece to an eventually big puzzle.

This marks the end of my second week working at the museum and I cannot wait to see all the cavities I will have by the end of my ten week trip to the candy store and the great tan I’ll have from spending all my time under artificial lighting. But seriously speaking, the lack of a tan I will have by the end of these ten weeks will so be worth it.

1 artwork, 2 units, 5 people, 45 minutes

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.

AmTap Deinstall 2011 video

From AmTapDeinstall2011video

I ran out of memory, so here is the rest of the deinstall in photos.

AmTap Deinstall 2011 pix

From AmTapDeinstall2011video

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.

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Cheryl Toyama
Cataloger/Data Asset Manager

Happy Mother’s Day!

Yamashita Twins at Japanese Hospital of Los Angeles, August 1959 (96.267.689)
Yamashita Twins at Japanese Hospital of Los Angeles, California, August 1959, Photograph by Toyo Miyatake Studio, Gift of the Alan Miyatake Family (96.267.689)

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

I came across this photo from our Toyo Miyatake Studio / Rafu Shimpo online collection while searching for images to include with the May Family Programs email update.

Here’s a few stories from our Discover Nikkei site about mothers & grandmothers:

 

John Esaki hanging out in front of Esaki tub in American Tapestry gallery

American Tapestry closes this weekend

American Tapestry: 25 Stories from the Collection

Have you seen the American Tapestry: 25 Stories from the Collection exhibition yet?

This weekend is your absolute last chance to see it before it closes this Sunday!

American Tapestry features artifacts, artwork, photographs, oral histories, and more from the Museum’s collection—some that have never been seen before by the public.

Bicycle, Gift of Elaine Otomo (2006.35.1). Photo by Gary Ono.
Bicycle, Gift of Elaine Otomo (2006.35.1). Photo by Gary Ono.

From the time we opened the exhibition way back in November, two of my personal favorites artifacts have been the radio and bicycle because they share stories of friendship, hope, and doing what’s right during the dark days of World War II and beyond.

In December, over the holidays, I was talking with family about the exhibition, and learned about a very similar story about an elephant. I wrote about it for our Discover Nikkei site. That’s one of the things that I really love about JANM—how I’m often able to find personal connections to the artifacts and stories we share.

John Esaki hanging out in front of Esaki tub in American Tapestry gallery
John hanging out in front of his family’s tub (ofuro).

Another favorite is the Japanese-style tub that was donated by the Esaki family of Monterey, CA. John Esaki works at the museum now, but the tub was donated very early in the museum’s history. John recorded a video of his dad explaining the history of the tub, which he added to the JANM YouTube channel last year as a resource for the exhibition.

The ofuro also played a special part in the Museum’s history! Back in April 1992, the museum was scheduled to have its Dedication Ceremony. Unfortunately, it ended up being the day after the Rodney King verdicts were released and civil disturbances erupted across the city, and so the opening ceremonies were postponed.

As a new opening event was being planned, staff invited Greg Alan Williams to come speak. At the time of the riots, the former Baywatch actor had saved a Japanese American man’s life. During his visit, he saw this ofuro and it reminded him of his own family’s tub. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, he spoke about how through this artifact, he was able to find his own personal connection:

On Wednesday last, I personally experienced the wonderful power within these walls. After completing my tour, I sat on a small stool around an old Japanese redwood hot tub in the Museum’s Legacy Center. I marveled at the way three Americans, two of Japanese descent, one a great-grandchild of Africa, were sitting around the tub, laughing, openly sharing their thoughts, their pain, and their hopes for a shared and much beloved community. I believe the honesty and openness of that dialogue was possible in part because this cultural work of art [the Museum] had illuminated our similarities, as it celebrated our differences. And in so doing, had opened a channel of communication between three human beings, which might not have otherwise existed. Such is the magic of this historical masterpiece.

American Tapestry has 25 artifacts, each with its own stories to tell. Most seem like everyday items, but I think that’s what makes this exhibition so special. It reminds us that our own lives are rich with stories that connect us with the world, if only we can stop for a moment to listen.

If you can, come check it out before it closes. If you have a smartphone or other internet-accessible device, bring it with you! We have free wi-fi available in the American Tapestry galleries so you can access additional related photos and videos on Facebook and YouTube.

For those who have made it out, I’d love to hear what your favorites were!

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Vicky Murakami-Tsuda
Communications Production Manager