The Chicago Japanese American Historical Society (CJAHS) is a non- profit group dedicated to preserving the dynamic history of Japanese Americans in Chicago. This blog is dedicated to my experience assisting with the organization's interesting and complex archive.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Hard day, Interesting discoveries
Today was a harder day at the archive, but I also made some very interesting discoveries with my co - intern Jake. We found a collection from a donor with a mixed assortment of objects. In addition to properly storing the materials, we also worked on identifying the connections between the various pieces. At first, we were not getting very far, finding more and more seemingly unrelated pieces, and getting cluttered and confused. This collection had very little information with it and only a few objects had the important data (i.e. names, dates, locations, etc). We knew that the collection was primarily from 2 different families; the Murakami family and the Arai family. We found quite a few photos with Mrs. Arai identified, but unfortunately not with her full name (yet). We also found a few with Tom Arai (her son) identified. In most of the photos he was pictured in uniform or at different locations in Europe during the war. I also found documents from the Veteran's Association describing his benefits as a disabled veteran. Finding this piece of information gave me a much greater sense of his life story. Before finding the photos, the question about his injuries or death during the war was always in the back of my mind as I have not yet seen a photo of him in his old age. Learning the extent of his injuries helped me understand not only his life, but also the lives of his mother and family. After looking through many more photos, including some from turn of the century Japan, Jake and I came across two large family portraits with the names "Tom", "Benzo", and "Chiye" written on the case holding them. In the photos were 3 children; 2 boys and a girl, and 2 adults. When we compared this portrait to other photos we had of Mr. and Mrs. Arai, it was obvious that the 2 adults were much younger versions of the couple. Tom, who was seated on his father's lap looked just like the uniform - clad Tom pictured in Italy (pictured in my previous post). His face was only a bit chubbier and his outfit a bit tinier. I realized that I had also seen a photo addressed to Chiye in the collection, as well as a few other unidentified portraits with it. We compared the photos to the little "Chiye" and noticed another significant resemblance. This connection will have to be further investigated and verified, but finding these links gave us hope. We could tell, from the quality and framing style of the family portait, that this object was from many years before the army photos, supporting our conclusions about the individuals pictured. While we were only able to build some understanding about a few objects, the result was rewarding. Our next few visits to the archive will probably be focused on these materials, and hopefully we can make more interesting discoveries.