The exhibit “Common Ground: The Heart of the Community” at the Japanese American National Museum chronicles Japanese American History from WWII to the present, using artifacts, documents and photographs. However, what drew me to relate this exhibit back to what we talked about in class was the prevalence of personal stories. For the exhibit staff, interns and volunteers worked to create 30-second videos sharing their personal relationship and stories that related to the objects in the exhibit. For example, one man looks at the barracks on display and reveals that it was the barracks next to his and that “people actually lived here.” Another women discusses how seeing a chocolate tin reminded her of the times she and her siblings would search the house (pre-internment) for the hidden chocolates. These videos show, like Ms. Kuramitsu discussed in her own article, although the Nisei weren’t necessarily in the intern camps, the stories and feelings passed down were theirs and affected their identity. For due to the prejudicial restrictions, many immigrants put all of their hope into the Nisei and worked for their success.
As Kuramitsu says in her piece “an ethnic community is never a monolithic entity but a group that is, by definition, connected by some set of memories and experiences.” This connection to each other and relatives from the past generation is shown in the videos. Unlike in the article, this exhibit views the objects from a historical context instead of balancing the objects between history and art. Also, it serves to empower the group because now they are in control of telling the story of their condition versus an outside government group.
Here is the link to the videos.