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We are so pleased to announce that we have two new finding aids up on the Online Archive of California! Our Getty intern, Robin, deserves the credit for writing and encoding these finding aids.

The Willie Funakoshi Collection is a beautiful set of photos (that we’ve digitized) of the Nisei Week Queens and courts spanning three decades! Nisei Week is an annual festival held in Little Tokyo that was first organized by Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, to celebrate their Japanese cultural heritage, and remains an active part of the Japanese American community. More detailed description, including interviewees and subjects covered, is on the finding aid. You can view a selection of these photographs on our Historypin channel.

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The Little Tokyo Redevelopment Collection is a valuable treasure trove of footage covering the redevelopment of the Little Tokyo neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles. The Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization (LTPRO) was founded in 1973 as a result of the Little Tokyo Project, which was adopted by the now-defunct Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles in order to redevelop the neighborhood. LTPRO challenged the ongoing evictions caused by the redevelopment efforts and assisted community businesses and long-time senior residents, who were in danger of displacement by transnational companies. It sought to maintain housing and sustainable living conditions for Japanese American working class people. 

The original format of the materials was 3/4″ U-matic tape, which we’ve all digitized. More detailed description, including interviewees, is available on the finding aid. Footage from this collection was used in Visual Communications’ film “Something’s Rotten in Little Tokyo.”  

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Check it out and share with any interested parties you know! As always, VC films are available for distribution. Researchers can view the footage and photos, along with any other materials from any of our other collections, in-house for no charge. Just make an appointment!

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.

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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

Our finding aid for the JACL Redress Video Collection is up on the Online Archive of California.  Very exciting news!

What’s a finding aid, you ask?

A finding aid is a type of record that gives information about a collection– what’s in it, how big it is, what it’s about, where it came from– all the things that you want to know when looking for primary sources!  It can also provide an inventory, which is very helpful to researchers to locate something in particular.

We hope that researchers find our finding aid, and then come to us for research.  Our holdings aren’t getting their worth if people aren’t viewing them!  Archives aren’t dusty records that are kept in a dark, hidden place.  They’re available for people to view, study, and use.  Check out our finding aid here: JACL Redress Video Collection Finding Aid

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.

We’re happy, excited, and relieved–!! to announce that we’ve nearly finished a project that’s consumed a lot of our time this summer.  Over the past two months, we digitized the Japanese American Citizens’ League (JACL) Redress Video Collection.  This collection consists of over 60 ¾” U-matic tapes of oral histories and testimonies from activists, politicians, and community members involved in the Redress and reparations process leading up to the passage of The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (HR 442, was aptly named after the WWII’s Japanese-American 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit in American history).

U-matic tapes are particularly in danger of deterioration, and preserving the material in these tapes is a significant priority of ours.  Before digitizing, we cleaned each tape several times (as well as the tape deck) to ensure that we would digitize the best possible picture quality.  Digitizing requires “watching” the tapes in real time, which can be a tedious process, especially with the number of tapes in the collection. During digitization, we check the quality of the video, color, sound, and make notes of the content itself– descriptive metadata– the who, where, when, and why of the videos.

The work doesn’t end after the digitization process is completed.  We created access DVD copies so that the originals don’t incur damage after repeated viewing by patrons; the newly digitized “originals” are kept in two separate locations.  And don’t forget the cataloging of all the new materials.

In this particular excerpt from the collection below, Senator Daniel Inouye recalls the tensions between the mainland Japanese American and Hawai’ian Japanese American soldiers and how it changed and affected the redress movement later on.  It’s lengthy, but worth very much worth the read (some parts have been cut for space).

The Hawai’i people kept to themselves, and the mainland people kept to themselves…An invitation was received from Rohwer, Arkansas, the internment camp there. Strangely, those invited were all from Hawai’i, so I can’t help but believe that this was part of a plan. Each company sent about ten young non-commissioned officers, or junior leaders of the Regiment…

For us, it was a big deal.  We had no idea where Rohwer was or we didn’t know what a camp looked like because none of the kotonks [a term used by Japanese Americans in Hawai’i to refer to Japanese Americans on the mainland] would talk to us about these camps…we had no idea what was happening down there. Then on that important date early in the morning, we gathered, many of us with our ukuleles and guitars, thinking of the lovely evening with some lovely kotonk gal, and I can hear the music in our truck and the other trucks as we moved along from Mississippi to Arkansas then after a while, we came into sight of that camp.  What we saw was something that none of us had anticipated.

We thought it was some housing project of sorts that we would see.  But no, this was a camp with barracks and fences and watch towers and armed guards in uniform, men with rifles and bayonets, and here we were in uniform of the United States Army, to prepare ourselves for combat to defend this country… and we were ordered to get off the trucks and they were about to search us. But the officer in charge stepped forward and said, I will vouch for these people. None of us had arms, and we all went in.

From that encounter, everything became very sober and somber. I recalled that evening there was a very sumptuous dinner but then we found out that this represented a week’s ration for this camp.  We literally had to force ourselves to eat because we had already lost our appetite, but the least we do was to show appreciation. Then we were told that certain barracks had been set aside for us to spend the evening, and that meant the families has to spend their nights in the community hall or the mess hall. We said no to that, and we spent our time in the mess hall and I slept in the truck, if I recall.  We left the next day and the return was a bit different. There was no singing in our truck, and I’m sure it was the same elsewhere.

I’m certain the question that I asked myself must have been asked a hundred times among others in that little journey, “Would I have volunteered from that camp, under those circumstances?” And to this day it is very difficult to honestly tell you what I would have done. Now this was what impressed many of my fellow senators– that here were these people, herded off into the camps, in a few days notice to carry only those items that they could carry on their backs…[Those senators] would stop and say, “You mean they would really volunteer, they weren’t drafted?” They volunteered! “What did their parents do?” They urged their sons to volunteer. “Oh come on, you’re kidding me!”

…Therefore, Rohwer, Arkansas, a relatively small camp out in the boondocks, played a major role in this redress.  Because if we did not have an opportunity to visit Rohwer and see for ourselves, I think the regiment would not have been formed. Because within hours of our return to Camp Shelby in Mississippi, the word went out like brushfire throughout the camp.

When I got back to my squad, I…[told] them, ‘you won’t believe what I’m gonna tell you’…they were all fascinated, and from then we began to looking at the kotonks a little differently.  We began to admire them.  My god, these guys are super men. They did something that maybe none of us would have done. The bond was forged; the regiment was formed. We’re closer than brothers, and I think that played a crucial role in the redress movement…

Senator Inouye’s interview, like others in the JACL Redress Collection, are very moving.  We’re excited to make these materials accessible to people for research, study, and personal growth.  People did amazing things and have amazing stories to tell, and others need to know about them!

Check out the finding aid here.

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