Bringing history to cyber life

Internment items from the Japanese American Archival Collection now online 

From family photos to written transcripts, Sacramento State's Japanese American Archival Collection holds an abundance of artifacts from an important, but dark, period of American history.

The collection, which began in 1994 as a gift of the personal mementos of alumna Mary Tsukamoto, focuses on the immigration and internment of Japanese Americans in World War II, post-war resettlement and redress by the United States in 1988. Additionally, it documents the daily lives of the Japanese Americans who lived in the once thriving community of pre-war Florin in the Sacramento region.

As the largest of its kind in the CSU system, the collection has garnered accolades including the Governor's Historic Preservation Award and an Award for Excellence from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

It's also known for its depth and breadth. Nearly 1,400 images, ranging from diaries, memorial citations and kimono dolls, can be viewed through the searchable Japanese American Archival Collection ImageBase. It's a virtual library, filled with personal belongings that offer a glimpse into the lives of internees.

And in light of current calls to intern another group of Americans, the archive is a tangible reminder that history can't be forgotten, for better or worse.

"The Japanese American Archival Collection is without a doubt our flagship collection," says Julie Thomas, special collections and manuscripts librarian. "We have items from the points of view of internees, community members and local government."

The collection also plays a role in the classroom. Greg Mark, professor of ethnic studies and director of the Asian American Studies Program, says he encourages his students to learn to conduct primary research and the archive represents a perfect resource, a "gold mine" of materials.

One of the strongest qualities of the collection: permanence.

"I still have speakers come in to my classes and share their experiences," says Mark. "But eventually an infamous page in American history will no longer have survivors telling their stories, leaving the archival collection as the primary source of information for the future generation of students."

As the beneficiary of a $40,000 grant, Sac State was able to digitize textual documents—correspondence, publications, newsletters and pamphlets—allowing users direct access.

And there are plenty of users. From 2008-2015, the collection has been tapped or referenced in 300 instances. California State Parks, national museums, scholars and filmmakers have all credited the collection in their work.

To access the Japanese American Archival Collection Image Base, visit:

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