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!


X-Lab Evokes Conscious Dialogue

I work in Visitor Services, so I open and close the galleries a few days each week. Lately, I’ve noticed that whenever I walk into X-Lab, something is always different–whether it’s the rifled-through laminated newspapers at the 1940s radio or new drawings on our “Only What You Can Carry” magnet board.

The following post-it activity is the one activity that has changed the most over time. You see–I’m all about conscious dialogue, so this activity in particular is one of my favorites. When the exhibition team put X-Lab together, they posed a question on our wall. In several weeks’ passing, the question became so hotly debated, it was as if our visitors themselves were evolving the activity. It reminds me of a some sort of crazy online comic book message board, except that it’s all about civil rights–not so much Batman vs. Superman.

Red post-its mean “NO”, yellow post-its mean “UNDECIDED”, and blue post-its mean “YES”. Our question was:

“Is it important to OBEY government rules in times of national crisis even if it means LOSS of privacy and civil rights?”

Some responses were:

YES, because… “in times of crisis, governments tend to react drastically, and I need to keep my family and I as safe as I possibly can.”

UNDECIDED, because… “in a time of emergency, you look to your government for help; however, privacy is highly important for anyone and so are a person’s rights as a human!”

NO, because… “if the rules go against the basic fundamentals of equality and freedom, then it goes against what it means to be a U.S. citizen.”

So how would YOU respond?

Xploration Lab

X-Lab Visitor Videos!

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?”

View more Xlab visitor videos >>

Xploration LabXploration Lab
Through June 12, 2011
Japanese American National Museum


For anyone who’s been through X-Lab, what was your favorite activity?