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In Session: The Material Life of the Archive: Promises and Challenges in Documenting the Japanese Diaspora
2: The Archive Dispersed: Challenges with Reading the Archive of WWII Incarceration
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Stanford University, United States
The official archive associated with the WWII Japanese American Incarceration is often thought of as primarily composed of Record Group 210 of the National Archives in Washington D.C. as well as the associated wartime record groups. This contains the papers of the War Relocation Authority (WRA), as well as various governmental organizations, comprising approximately 2,227 cubic feet of space. Additionally, The Bancroft Library in Berkeley holds the records of the Japanese Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS), UCLA the materials of the Japanese American Research Project (JARP), and the Hoover Institution the Japanese Diaspora Initiative. The materials of these four entities make-up much of the official record of the incarceration and are cited in numerous studies of Japanese American incarceration and larger studies of Japanese Diaspora. However, beyond this official archive, resides a dispersed collection of community and family archives, held in various shelving units, filing cabinets, family albums, shoe boxes, and stuffed manila envelopes, each of which expands the perspectives and meanings of incarceration.
In this paper I will discuss the challenges of working with these different archives, contending with their scattered qualities as well as their materiality. In recent years, efforts to digitized both official and unofficial archives have increased as a way to contend with the financial and physical difficulties in tracking the archive dispersed. These developments impact the relationships between researchers and this material, at times limiting the information available, and must be engaged with in thoughtful and deliberate manners.