JANM Campus

Volunteer Program

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Volunteering at JANM

JANM’s allure rests not only in its award-winning design and exciting exhibitions, but in the warmth and beauty of its heart. The heart of the Museum is found in our volunteers. Here you will find a welcoming community of men and women of diverse ages and backgrounds who uniformly share a commitment to JANM and its mission. The Museum exists to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.

We extend our personal invitation to you to step into this worthwhile tradition of service. JANM volunteers gain an even greater appreciation for our community as it exists within the broader tapestry of cultures and peoples that make up our nation.

Learn how you can contribute your time and experience in service to the museum and the community at large.

What Can I Do?

Find out about what types of volunteer roles exist at JANM.

Volunteer Opportunities

How do I volunteer?

Find out about the process for applying and becoming a volunteer.

Information & Application


Have questions? Here are answers to the most common inquiries.

View FAQ

Volunteers at Natsumatsuri

“To assist the Museum to carry on the legacy of Japanese Americans such as my grandparents is a truly personal worthwhile experience and most rewarding.”

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What Can I Do?

Volunteers are sometimes portrayed as those who staple papers and stuff envelopes. That is a fairly limited view of what JANM’s Volunteer Program has to offer. YES, we do stuff envelopes and make copies, but the work of the volunteer goes far beyond this.

JANM volunteers participate in all aspects of museum operations. As a volunteer you will find yourself in a personally rewarding atmosphere of art and historical exhibitions, arts & crafts classes, musical and stage performances, film and video screenings, panel discussions, special volunteer previews of exhibitions, and much more. You will quickly discover that JANM maintains a busy schedule of activities.

Volunteer Opportunities

JANM maintains an active schedule of public programs. Our public programs team is seeking volunteers with superior customer service skills to provide our diverse guests with a positive visitor experience. Public programs take place primarily on evenings and weekend afternoons.

Public program greeter/usher duties include but are not limited to, checking in attendees on paper lists or by use of a ticket scanner, assisting guests to find open seats, ushering guests to and from their seats before, during, and after the program, providing guidance for use of hearing assistance devices in the 200 seat Tateuchi Democracy Forum, answering general questions about the JANM, its exhibits, programs and membership.

Time commitment request is at least two shifts of 3-4 hours each per month. Our programs are primarily on weekend afternoon and weekday evenings.

Were you in “camp” during Word War II? Share your first-hand incarceration experience and memories of camp with students as a member of our virtual visits team! 

Your participation will follow a docent facilitated virtual visit of historical content. Coaching will be provided by our Education Staff where you’ll learn to lead a 5-10 minute self introduction and answer student questions in 20 minute slots. Need to be comfortable using zoom. Our First Person Virtual Volunteers need to be available twice a month for 25 to 75 minutes. Virtual visits take place weekdays 8 a.m.–6 p.m. (PT). Learn more about our virtual visit program here.

Stationed in the Museum’s inner lobby area, the Membership Table/Information Desk Volunteer is one of the first points of contact for visitors. Volunteers will provide visitors information about membership opportunities, take membership payments*, and issue temporary membership cards. In addition, the Volunteer will greet visitors, inform them of current and upcoming exhibitions, and help direct them to exhibitions and amenities within the Pavilion Building.

Membership Table / Information Desk Volunteers are needed on Saturdays from 11 am–3 p.m. and/or as needed for onsite events, including some evenings. Minimum commitment: flexible, but prefer once a month for at least 4 hours.

*Background and credit checks are required. 

Photograph JANM events, exhibitions, and more

Volunteer photographers capture and document JANM’s activities, events, and exhibitions. 

JANM is looking for volunteer photographers who have experience photographing events, exhibitions, people, and/or buildings at a quality level; own photography equipment and computer; can select, edit, and digitally transfer photographs; and can attend at least one onsite event a month, usually on weekends or evenings. 

Applicants must provide photography samples.

Learn more about being a volunteer photographer! LEARN MORE

Writing, editing, translating, marketing, and other volunteer opportunities

JANM’s Discover Nikkei project is a community-based web project that shares the stories and perspectives of Nikkei around the world in four languages—English, Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese. Volunteers write about JANM exhibitions and upcoming programs; interview authors, artists, filmmakers, and others; review books and films; and more.

Other volunteer opportunities include translations, transcribing oral history interviews, video editing, guest hosting Nima Voices episodes, assisting with multilingual social media posts and responding to inquiries, and programming (must be proficient in Python/Django).

Most Discover Nikkei volunteers work remotely and communication and coordination is primarily done through e-mail or through Slack. All volunteers must be able to communicate in writing and verbally in English or Japanese. Writers/editors/translators must submit samples that demonstrate fluency and skill in the language they will be writing/translating into.

Additional volunteer opportunities are available.

Volunteer Program

“Volunteering provides me with an opportunity to give back in a small way to my community which has provided me with so much.”

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How do I become a JANM volunteer?

What is your availability?

Consider your available schedule to work as a volunteer. Many volunteers work one day a week. To maintain status as an active volunteer, a monthly commitment of a minimum of six hours is required.

Submit an Application Form

Complete and submit a Volunteer Application Form. 

Application deadlines are October 31 and March 31, respectively, for our January and June new volunteer groups.

Visit the link below to download the form or you may also call, e-mail, or visit JANM to receive an application form.


Next steps

Once your application is received by the Volunteer Office, a member of our team will call to discuss our program requirements and answer any questions you may have.

The next step is meeting with one of our volunteer interviewers.

Training and Orientation

Once you have been accepted into the Volunteer Program, you will be notified with training dates.

Complete the training and orientation period for new volunteers. Our orientation period is 6 months, during which you will attend four classroom sessions and receive on-the-job training for your selected volunteer assignment. JANM new volunteer orientation is offered twice each year. We intake a Winter cadre in January and a Summer cadre in June.

All JANM volunteers are required to be current JANM members. Confirm your membership is current prior to the start of your first orientation class.

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Continuing Education is offered and encouraged for all JANM volunteers. These take place not only in classroom settings but through our vibrant schedule of public programming.

Your partnership in the Volunteer Program of the Japanese American National Museum can begin today with a phone call, visit, or an email to the Volunteer Program office. Upon completion of the Volunteer Application Form together with your JANM membership enrollment, additional information regarding orientation and training sessions will be sent to you.

For further information, please contact the Volunteer Services Department at the Japanese American National Museum by phone to 213.830.5645 or send email to volunteer@janm.org.

JANM Volunteers

“I have met so many wonderful people and have heard their stories. As a Museum volunteer,my life has been so enriched.

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Do I need to be Japanese American to volunteer?

No, Japanese ancestry is not a requirement. The Japanese American National Museum is committed to diversity. All those who work for or on behalf of JANM understand and support the mission. The Museum is committed to embracing diversity and understanding of different abilities, experiences, perspectives, and styles within the institution.

What happens after I submit my volunteer application?

We will confirm by email receipt of your application. That email will include the next steps towards acceptance into our Volunteer Program that includes a phone call to review our program requirements followed by a face-to-face meeting with one of our volunteer interviewers. If your volunteer interest meets the Museum needs, you will receive an acceptance letter outlining our new volunteer training program.

What if I’m not a Museum member?

Volunteering at JANM is a privilege of membership so you’ll be required to be a member upon entry into our volunteer training program and active membership is required as long as you’re a volunteer at the Museum.


How long is the new volunteer orientation period?

The orientation period is a 6-month period during which you will:

  • Participate in four classroom sessions totalling 11.5 hours. 
  • An initial orientation class + two courses in Japanese American history start your orientation and training period.
  • After your initial orientation class, you may begin on-the-job training in your selected volunteer area while under supervision of a staff member or an experienced volunteer.
  • A fourth class is at the end of your 6-month orientation and training period.

What kind of help do I get as a volunteer trainee?

Each new volunteer is assigned a mentor. Our mentors are experienced volunteers who are available to answer questions and to guide you in completing your training and orientation period. If you elect to become a facilitator, you’ll also work with education staff or their designee in learning how to facilitate group visits.

How do I become an active JANM volunteer?

In order to attain “Active” volunteer status at the end of your 6-month orientation period,
the Volunteer Office will:

  • Ask our Membership Department to confirm your JANM membership
  • Verify you’ve completed of all required orientation & training courses
  • Verify you’ve volunteered for at least 20 hours 
  • Confirm your commitment to a volunteer job and a regular schedule

What is required for me to maintain Active volunteer status?

Active volunteers must:

  • Be a JANM member
  • Volunteer no less than 72 hours during a calendar year

Is it possible for me to volunteer in more than one area?

Yes! We very much encourage cross-training. Many of our volunteers like to help the Museum in more than one area. It not only helps the Museum but keeps things more interesting for our volunteers.

Do I need to commit to a regular volunteer schedule?

We are a commitment based program model meaning that we ask all our volunteers to come in on a regular schedule by selecting day or days and times during which they’ll volunteer. We ask for a minimum of 72 volunteer hours per calendar year and an average of 6 hour per month to maintain active status. For our facilitators we ask for 8 hours per month to accommodate our school tours.

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