Monday, November 19, 2012

Completing Projects

Yesterday's work at the archive was more of the usual, except I focused on completing some of my projects that still had loose ends. This included accessioning and filing away the last remaining materials in the Arai Family collection. I have been saving some of the most important pieces to be accessioned last so that hopefully we can get more information on them before we put the information into the computer. This includes the Purple Heart that was awarded to Mr. Arai for his valiant efforts during the Second World War. I have never seen a Purple Heart so close in person before, so it is very exciting to be able to be part of the effort to preserve and protect it. There is of course a undeniable irony that the nation that is incarcerating his family should also be the nation that awards him with the highest honor demonstrating the nation's trust and gratitude. However, even with this unfortunate juxtaposition in mind, we should remember that his Purple Heart was earned for his individual bravery and should not be burdened by the conditions that surround it. His courage should not be tainted by the injustices of the internment camps.

Aside from the Arai Family collection, I also cleaned up some of my entries for the collection of Scene magazine issues. I find that editing entries is much easier for me than creating them. Perhaps because I am better at spotting a specific error in a detail than keeping track of my overall goal, at least on the computer. When entering the accession information I always find myself stalling and trying to remember what I meant to type in each section, or which sections I ought to fill out versus those I should ignore. However, when I return to an old entry, I can immediately identify everything that could use improvement and am quick to find better solutions. Because of this imbalance in my skills I have taken the task of double checking everyone's entries, as opposed to entering them from scratch.

There are also many documents that need to be reorganized into new larger containers. The actual job is not complicated in the least, but the difficulty comes in finding the perfect sized box for the documents we have, especially because we have used up most of our pre - made boxes at this point. Also, the documents are not in of themselves very valuable. They merely hold information that might be of interest to someone in the future. So deciding what quality material they deserve is also part of the task of reorganizing. Since we are running low on some of our materials, and simply do not want to waste something we are sure to need in the future, I have been working out the best way to keep the documents organized without much waste. It may be one of the less exciting projects, but it is still a necessary part of keeping up the integrity of the archive.

Lastly, a final project that I am determined to complete before the end of the year involved accessioning  quite a few sports jackets, t - shirts, jerseys, and miscellaneous equipment from the CNAA (Chicago Nisei Athletic Association). I packaged the objects into proper storage materials, but have yet to find the best place for them in the archive. Until we find a place where the objects can be together without displacing too many others, we have decided to delay accessioning the items. When you accession materials, one of the most important steps is adding the correct location of the object to the file, because without it, the object may as well be lost. In order to avoid any discrepancies that might happen if we relocate the items, we have decided to complete our other projects before tackling the sportswear. However, we have reached a point where taking on the CNAA objects is feasible, so in my next visit I will be sure to work on those objects.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Work as Usual

Yesterday was one of the less exciting days at the archive. I mostly accessioned photos and completed my reorganization of the Scene magazine box. I also began accessioning all the issues of the magazine into the computer. As far as accessioning goes, documents and periodicals are some of the easiest things to file. Photos and objects, on the other hand, are quite difficult. When we first were becoming acquainted with the Past Perfect program we accessioned many books. These were a good point to start from because books have a lot of information easily available, giving us good examples to explore the different sections of the Past Perfect program. Today while accessioning the issues of Scene magazine I was grateful to have all the useful information that comes with a magazine like the volume number, month and year of issue, general topics of that issue and so on. Meanwhile, the photos I accessioned were a bit more difficult. Sometimes years are written on the back which is very helpful. However, many of the photos I've found recently only have Japanese written on the back. I have been able to understand a few, but in Japan there are two dating systems, the Western - based system and another which uses the lineage of emperors for reference. When only the second system is used I am totally at a loss. If we should find someone who can read the photos for us I have decided to make a note for any photos that have Japanese written on the back. I also make sure to include any sort of information about writing on the back of photos no matter what language as it is an important part of the "Condition Notes" section. Its important to make note of anything that might be considered a alteration to the object to keep track of any damages that might occur if it is lent out. Doing the first magazine was slow, and the interesting pictures in it can also be distracting. But after I figured out the details that could be translated to all the other pieces, the process became much faster. This seems to always happen with a large group of pieces that need accessioning. Much of the work at the archive gets easier with time. That is why at first it is difficult to get started, but often around the time that the session is over I am not yet ready to leave. I reach my peak work pace then, and find it difficult to shift gears into cleaning up our work areas. I am glad that we are able to leave much of our work laid out. At this point, we have quite a few boxes of items fully organized and accessioned. We also have many projects nearly finished, and have been able to get a much better sense of the archive as a whole. I have not taken the time to take a nice look at our completed projects, but this week I noticed that we had made quite a bit of progress and was happy to see all our things nicely put together. Next week I will put the finishing touches on some of our latest projects and hopefully find many new interesting ones to take on.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Some Interesting Finds

Yesterday, my work at the archive began with assisting the president of the organization edit some material that is to be sent out to donors and members. The letter summarized some of the activities the organization plans to complete as well as a proposal for changing the frequency of newsletters. While working with this it made me realize all the small tasks that are necessary for the larger projects of the organization. I also realized that finding support for all of these projects is more than half the battle of completing them.
Following this task I began working with some of the Arai files again. We still have quite a few items from that collection to store, identify and accession. I started working with some of the photos that do not appear to have any relation to the others. However, I luckily came across a slip with many of the same small photo within it. This small photo also matched a larger version I had found before. It was a candid portait of an older man. I remembered I had seen a picture of Mr. Arai, who appeared to be the same age as the man in this portrait. I returned to the other photo, which showed Mr. Arai with Mrs. Arai and their son Benzo. The faces were identical and I now knew that the portraits were of Mr. Arai.
I continue to look through the Arai files and found more photo slips from the 1950s. Its very interesting to see the old style photo slips from this era. One included photos of Mrs. Arai. Up until then I was unable to find the first name of Mrs. Arai. I had only one document with what might have been her adopted name "Jean". I knew that this was a good insight, but I also knew that many of the Japanese Americans during that time that were also about her age adopted new more americanized first names. For example, my grandmothers real name was Shizuko, but she adopted the name Sue. Anyway, the photo slip that I found with Mrs. Arai's photos also had her name, the date, as well as her address. I finally had all of the pieces to fill her general biography information. I also now knew that likely address in the Rogers Park area of all the other family members, at least for November of 1950. This was a very convenient discover. I am always happy to find documents that are simple and straightforward like this.
My final interesting discovery of the day involved a very large box that whose items we had yet to accession. I looked into the box and discovered many editions of a magazine called Scene. The dates of the editions ranged from 1948 to 1953. This magazine was a Japanese American pictorial magazine. Before finding these I had never known of the publication. I never knew that a magazine marketed specifically for Japanese Americans ever existed during the post - war era. Finding out about something interesting like this is usual done through secondary sources, so I am very lucky to have my first understanding of the magazine through the actual issues. I repackaged the magazines into new plastic slips and began organizing them chronologically. Next week I will accession all of the magazines and hopefully will work with kimono that are being donated to the archive soon.