Mining the Home Movie: Excavations in Histories and Memories

By Karen L. Ishizuka; Patricia R. Zimmermann | Go to book overview

11 The Moving Image Archive of the
Japanese American National Museum
Los Angeles, California

KAREN L. ISHIZUKA

The Japanese American National Museum is a private nonprofit organization incorporated in March 1985 as the first museum in the United States devoted to presenting the history and culture of Japanese Americans. Its mission is to make known the Japanese American experience as an integral part of our nation’s heritage in order to improve understanding of and appreciation for America’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Through the development of a comprehensive collection of Japanese American material culture and through a multifaceted program of exhibitions, educational programs, films, and publications, the museum tells the story of Japanese Americans from the first Japanese immigrants who arrived in the late 1800s to the rich diversity of today’s community.

The Moving Image Archive of the National Museum was established in 1989 by myself and Robert A. Nakamura as a repository of moving images, consisting primarily of home movies that provide visual documentation of the history and experience of Japanese in America. While the majority U.S. society was routinely documented in newspapers, magazines, newsreels, and feature films, until the 1960s life in ethnic America had been routinely overlooked and therefore went undocumented. Home movies made by ethnic Americans thus provide the only existing motion picture documentation of early ethnic Americans’ lives from their own points of view.

When the 16mm moving image camera was introduced to the public in 1924, Japanese Americans began taking what are now referred to as “home movies.” While most home movies do not usually document everyday activities, such as eating, going to school, reading a newspaper or book, or listening to records, these are depicted in amateur films taken by Japanese Americans. Not only do they provide visual records of lifestyle and behavior, they provide evidence of intangible social constructs, such as cultural

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