Tag Archives: Digitization

So the summer comes to an end, and I leave VC saddled with much more knowledge than I came here with. My ten weeks here flew by, and words cannot express enough how grateful I am to have gotten this experience. Not only did I learn so much about archives, I got to meet amazing people, including my fellow summer interns, Helen, and the rest of the staff.

I worked on so many different projects this summer that I feel like I truly got a well-rounded introduction to archives. I started out by learning the basics about metadata and archival practices before I got to apply those learnings to my work. I got to handle several types of audiovisual formats, something that I was really eager to do. I got to work with materials such as 3/4″ U-matic tapes, mini-DVs, cassette tapes, and VHS tapes. I even got a chance to go through the digitization process with the U-matic tapes to help complete the Amerasians: Media and the Arts collection that a previous intern worked on. For my final project, I got to encode two finding aids for the Willie Funakoshi Collection and the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Collection, which allowed me to contribute to the Online Archive of California! In addition to the archives experience, I was exposed to the valuable work a non-profit like VC does within the Asian American community.


After all this excitement, I have to leave and return to the world outside of VC, where I’ll be preparing for grad school (in information studies), returning to my work at the Special Collections Department at UCLA, and hopefully relaxing before school starts up again. No matter where I end up in the future, I know that my experiences will have a lasting impact on my life. Thanks for everything, Visual Communications! Let’s hope that this experience isn’t our last.

A small selection of VC’s audiovisual materials are now digitized and up on the web!  Last November, VC joined the California Audiovisual Preservation Project as a partner institution to work towards the goal of digitizing and preserving California-based historical recordings. We’re extremely honored to be a part of this Project, and look forward to sharing our materials online!

To participate in the project, VC went had to go through several steps. It wasn’t an automatic process– all materials had to be nominated, and then accepted for inclusion and digitization.  The first step was for us to identify and prioritize materials appropriate for the project.  Because CAVPP’s California Light and Sound project is rooted in California-based subjects and events, we had to choose materials that were California-specific. Although we have certain moving image materials that are worthy of digitization, they didn’t meet the California subject requirement.  Another important factor was to nominate materials that we couldn’t digitize in-house. While we have digitization capabilities for a number of formats, we didn’t have an easy way to digitize 16mm film and 1/8″ audiocassette tapes.  With the resources of the CAVPP, that wasn’t a problem.  We ended up choosing a total of five selections, comprised of multiple tapes/reels, and started the nomination process through the Internet Archive site, which hosts all the CAVPP materials.  The nomination process included entering metadata (data about data), both descriptive (subjects, topics, dates, interviewer, etc.) and technical (format, sound, etc.) The more metadata included, the better! The more information available lends to a better contextual understanding of the materials.

After the nomination process, we were notified which materials were accepted into the program (spoiler alert: all of them!). Five of VC’s AV materials is now part of the California Light and Sound Collection and hosted on the Internet Archive, available online to anyone! Check out the listings below, and follow the links to the videos and audio!

Little Tokyo 1930s Home Movie (1934)

Description: Home movie of pre-World War II Los Angeles, including the Little Tokyo neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Harbor. Footage documents Downtown Los Angeles night traffic, the annual Nisei Week Parade in Little Tokyo, ships at the harbor, and construction. This internegative was obtained through a restoration process performed on the original 1930s 16mm film.

1930s Little Tokyo Nisei Week Parade

1930s Little Tokyo Nisei Week Parade

Military Intelligence Service Oral Histories (March 11, 1989)

Additional Title:: Saga of the MIS
Description: These oral histories are recordings of a panel featuring Japanese American World War II veterans who served in the Military Intelligence Service, the army’s unit of Japanese Americans that provided translation and interrogation services. Speakers talk about their experiences that range from family life, Pearl Harbor, being incarcerated in the internment camps, joining the military, training for the Military Intelligence Service, and serving in combat in the South Pacific.  Nearly all of these MIS panelists were born and raised in California.

Susan Ahn Cuddy Oral Histories (1996)

Description: This footage is an oral history of Susan Ahn Cuddy, who was born in Los Angeles and the first Korean American woman in the U.S. Navy. he is the daughter of Dosan Chang Ho Ahn and Helen Ahn, prominent Korean independence activists.  Cuddy and her family were one of the first Korean families in Los Angeles.  Cuddy joined the navy in 1942 and went on to become a lieutenant.  She later worked at the Office of Naval Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Library of Congress.  She attended UC Irvine.

Susan Ahn Cuddy

Susan Ahn Cuddy

Colonel Young Oak Kim Oral History (February 4, 1986)

Description: This oral history is of Colonel Young Oak Kim, a highly decorated World War II veteran. He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the Bunker Hill area of Downtown. He and his family were one of the first Korean families in Los Angeles. During WWII, he fought with the 100th Infantry Battalion, a segregated unit of Japanese Americans from Hawaii. He was the only non-Japanese American. He later rejoined the army to fight in the Korean War.  Kim was the Asian American to command a regular U.S. combat battalion. He was active with community work and helped establish Go For Broke and the Japanese American National Museum, and served as a board member for Visual Communications.

Filipino American Home Movies (1950s)

Description: These 16mm reels from the 1950s are Kodachrome home movies of a Filipino American family in California and Hawai’i. Footage was taken by George Cayetano. Footage includes arrival of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Former President and First Lady of the Philippines, at Hickam Field in Honolulu, Hawai’i. Footage also covers the Filipino-American farming community in Delano, California, documenting farming life, community festivals and parades, family life, and social gatherings like a Filipino Debut, a coming-of-age ceremony.

Chinatown: Portrait of a Working Community 

Description: 1977 film about the changing landscape of San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Produced during a volatile period in which community re-development initiatives in most U.S. urban centers threatened the unique community fabric of various ethnic communities, CHINATOWN: PORTRAIT OF A WORKING COMMUNITY juxtaposes the vivacity of the people, businesses and community institutions of one of California’s first and arguably, largest Chinatowns against the violent closure, in August 1977, of the International Hotel, a low-income hotel abutting Chinatown along Kearny and Jackson Streets. Filmed footage of the evictions, a watershed moment in the Asian American progressive movement, was later repurposed by its photographer Curtis Choy for his own landmark 1983 documentary of the incident, THE FALL OF THE I-HOTEL.

Chinatown: Portrait of a Working Community

Chinatown: Portrait of a Working Community

The CAVPP project was made possible with grants from the institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the California State Library.  Thanks so much for helping small institutions like VC make our materials accessible and discoverable to the public!

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.

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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.

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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.

Screen shot 2012-12-11 at 4.05.15 PM

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!Screen shot 2012-12-11 at 3.59.12 PM

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about discovering materials in the Archives.  Another extraordinary find is a box of Kabuki photos.  Unfortunately, this is another situation of not knowing the provenance of the photos, and we don’t have any metadata… in English, that is!  Every single photo has writing on the back– we just can’t read it ourselves.

Here’s a sample photo from the box, as well as the back.  If you can help, please let us know.  We’re really curious!

Another intern leaves the nest today!  Kim Zarate, our Getty intern, ends yet another summer at VC. This summer, she worked tirelessly on several digitization projects for the archives.  Kim recently graduated from UC Riverside and will be working in the collections department at the UCR/California Museum of Photography.  We’ll miss you, Kim!

Hi, my name is Kim.  I interned in the archives at Visual Communications this summer.  I’m currently in the final days of my internship, wrapping up a few projects and tasks here in the Preservation department.  Although I have previous experience with archives and collections, working in the Visual Communications archives was a unique experience not only because of the scope of its contents, but also what I learned during my time here.

This summer, my main project focused on digitizing and processing the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Redress collection.  This involved cleaning each ¾” U-matic tape, viewing the footage in real time and checking for quality – all while taking extensive notes of the tape’s content, condition and resulting digital video file.  After access DVD copies of the footage are made (to prevent wear on the original tapes), all materials must be cataloged.

The JACL Redress collection contains oral histories and interviews with those involved in the redress and reparations campaign for Japanese Americans interned during World War II.  In their interviews, both politicians and community members shared powerful and moving personal experiences that fueled their support for the campaign and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.  Several people stated that possible monetary compensation did not motivate their involvement with the campaign; rather, they believed in ensuring that no one would never have to endure the injustices experienced by the interned Japanese Americans.

In addition to my work in the Preservation department, I collaborated with the summer interns from other departments to produce a set of videos for Youth Inspired, a short web series that showcases the talents and passions of young media artists and local community leaders who work with and inspire youth. When the interns discussed who to feature in the series, I became impressed by how these leaders’ ability to bring changes to their communities stemmed from their collaborative efforts with others.  As we conducted the interviews, each person expressed that they hope to empower youth to learn about and become active contributors to their communities.

This sense of passing on a focus on community and an understanding of history struck me the most and became a recurring theme of the various projects I worked on during my time here.  Working with Visual Communications’ archives revealed to me a deeply intertwined, richly textured, and endlessly complex Asian Pacific American history that encompasses my experiences as well those of others whose stories extend beyond my own.  To have a hand in processing archives – in ensuring that this knowledge is carefully preserved and can be shared with future generations as it has been shared with me – is the most personally rewarding and makes intensive archival processes worth it.

I want to thank Visual Communications for giving me the opportunity to work with them this summer.  I not only learned how to process and digitize moving images, but I came to appreciate even more the close bond between history and community.

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