Hello everyone! My name is Melissa Jamero and I am the new archives intern for Visual Communications under the direction of our resident archivist, Helen Kim. I graduated from UCLA in 2011 where I received by Bachelor’s Degree in History and Asian American Studies. I have always been interested in Asian American media and worked closely with Professor Robert Nakamura, one of the founders of Visual Communications, at the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications.
I joined the Visual Communications team in early October and have busy digitizing a video collection at the VC office. This particular collection consists of a public access television series called “Amerasians: Media and the Arts” which featured interviews of artists and media creators that aired between the years 1988 and 1991. Stann Nakazono produced the television series and host John Esaki conducted interviews of a variety of Asian American and Pacific Islander artists from filmmakers, to actors, to musicians and more.
Many of the artists interviewed shared how they got into the arts and what obstacles they faced as Asian American artists. Artists, such as playwright Philip Gotanda, related how growing up Asian in the United States influenced their work and musicians like Yutaka Yokokura explained how rediscovering their cultural backgrounds inspired them to create uniquely Asian American art.
It took approximately two months for us to digitize this collection which is comprised of over 100 U-Matic ¾” tapes. You may remember that our previous digitization project on the JACL Redress interviews was also originally comprised of U-Matic ¾” tapes and that these are particularly vulnerable to degradation over time. Thus the entire process requires the tapes to be cleaned multiple times before we can watch or digitize them. Unfortunately, we found that these tapes in particular have deteriorated quite a bit and needed extensive cleaning, which indicated severe damage. We were ultimately able to digitize a good number of interviews and examples of the artists’ works. Access DVD copies for viewing are available at the VC office.
The Amerasians Video Collection digitization project is a perfect example of how important it is for us to go back and recover films and tapes on obsolete formats that are in danger of being long forgotten. Because these tapes are deteriorating at a faster rate and equipment to even play them is even rarer, it is imperative that projects like this continue to happen. We are excited that we are able to preserve video recordings like this and we look forward to doing more in the future, so keep a look out!