University to Lead NEH-Funded Archives Project to Digitize Japanese American Internment Documents

The California State University, Dominguez Hills Archives and Special Collections Department, in collaboration with archives divisions at CSU Fresno, San Jose State, CSU Northridge, CSU Fullerton and CSU Sacramento, has been awarded a $40,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant to plan the digitization and creation of a website for collections relating to Japanese Americans’ incarceration during World War II.

“We are thrilled that NEH has recognized this project, especially since the topic is still of great interest to scholars and the Japanese American community in California and elsewhere,” said Greg Williams, principal investigator for the grant and director of Archives and Special Collections at CSU Dominguez Hills. “The opportunity to plan with so many other CSU archives departments gives us the opportunity to showcase archives throughout the CSU. Archivists and researchers have known about these collections for years, but have always had difficulties gaining access to the materials. This grant begins the process of making the materials accessible in one place.”

A lease on Rancho San Pedro land to Ichiro Haijima on which is written "Tenant Evacuated by U.S. Gov May, 1942"

Throughout the last half century, the archives, libraries, oral history projects and history departments at several California State Universities (CSU) have collected archival and manuscript materials, objects and media relating to what is generally known as Japanese American ’internment’ or incarceration. The collections represent approximately 300 linear feet of archival materials that focus on some of the most striking events related to the treatment of minorities in U.S. history.

The topics cover an enormous range of subjects central to Japanese-American life before, during and after World War II, including immigration, the California Alien Land Acts of 1913 and 1920, the War Relocation Authority (WRA), organizations supporting Japanese Americans, redress, Japanese Peruvians, hostage exchanges on the S.S. Gripsholm, sports and the U.S. Army’s 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Camps represented include Jerome, Gila River, Rohwer, Manzanar, Tanforan, Poston, Amache/Granada, Heart Mountain, Crystal City and more. Among the archival materials are letters, photographs, oral histories, audio and video, camp publications, papers of camp administrators and counselors, poetry, art works, leases, certificates and other documents to prove citizenship and school yearbooks.

Collections at CSU Sacramento have mostly come from citizens of the Florin neighborhood in Sacramento and throughout Northern California. CSU Fullerton’s oral histories on Japanese American were generated by residents of Orange County and throughout Southern California. SJSU’s Flaherty Collection consists of materials from Colonel Hugh T. Fullerton of the Western Defense Command. The collections at CSU Dominguez Hills originate mostly from the South Bay of Los Angeles County where one of the largest concentrations of Japanese Americans resided. CSU Fresno’s materials come from the agricultural areas of the San Joaquin Valley. Other materials especially camp or WAR materials have come from community groups, collectors or individuals with an abiding interest in the topic

From the archives at San Jose State, a letter to the superintendent of Tule Lake Camp.

The central goal of the California State University Japanese American Archives Digitization Planning Project is to identify Japanese American collection materials in need of digitization and develop a ‘ready-to-go’ plan to implement the digitization for placement on a CSU-sponsored website that will be accessible to scholars, students and interested citizens throughout the United States and the world.

In addition, the project will bring together the archivists from each university, and other scholars and technical consultants for a symposium scheduled  June 17 and 18 at CSU Dominguez Hills. During this working symposium, the scholars will comment on the trajectory of Japanese American history during World War II, the importance of terminology in describing this history and which project collections should be prioritized for digitization. The technical consultants will focus on issues of digitizing both text and media, the use of a digital asset management system, a process for ensuring an effective controlled vocabulary, the issue of poorly cataloged digital materials, creating a website to display the materials, the appropriate harvesting of the digital materials for the website, as well as completing a pilot project to digitize and create metadata for 100-200 items.

For more information, contact the CSUDH Archives Department at (310) 243-3895 or visit

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