The Japanese American Digitization Project

A National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant to California State University, Dominguez Hills is supporting a project to digitize and make accessible 10,400 archival records relating to 20th century Japanese-American history from 19 collections, including photographs, organization and family manuscript collections, and oral histories held at eight institutions throughout California. While spanning the 1920s through the 1980s, the collections to be digitized will emphasize World War II internment and post-war years as part of the California State University Japanese American Digitization Project. Densho, an organization committed to preserving Japanese American History, will partner with project participants to build and enhance a Names Registry, an online, searchable database of those Japanese Americans forced to relocation camps.

Shown here are selections from a photo album compiled by George Nobuo Naohara, a Kibei Nisei, who was incarcerated at Manzanar, Jerome, and Tule Lake incarceration camps during World War II. Included are photographs taken during/after World War II, depicting his farm labor experience in Idaho and Utah, incarceration in the Jerome incarceration camp, and Army language school training. You can see more at the CSU Japanese American Digitization Project.

The California State University System (consisting of 23 campuses, once called “the 1000 mile campus”) and the local CSU archival collections scattered throughout California are too disparate to offer scholars a complete story or easy access. It is not serendipity that so many CSU archives have a great deal of material focused on this issue. Immigration patterns that determined where Japanese Americans (Nikkei) settled also relate to where CSU collections are located. Sacramento, San Jose and Fresno had early Japanese American agricultural populations. The Nikkei populations of Little Tokyo, Gardena and Palos Verdes in Los Angeles County are directly connected to the materials that CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU Fullerton have collected. Grants to digitize and describe these archival collections are beginning to bring these local stories of national significance together for worldwide access.

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