Museum Collections

Collections

The over 150,000 objects that comprise the JANM permanent collection chronicle the Japanese American experience in its entirety from early immigration to the present. Artifacts related to early immigration to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, early life in Japanese American communities, and the World War II incarceration experience and military service are strengths of the collection.

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Cornerstone collections include work clothing that Japanese immigrant women fashioned from the textiles they brought with them from Japan and denim material on Hawaiian plantations; diaries, letters, and other first-person narratives of America’s concentration camps; as well as materials from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion. Although these have been prime collecting areas, they are not the sole focus. Artifacts pertaining to all aspects of the Japanese American experience are welcomed.

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The museum’s permanent collection, which includes material culture artifacts (the three-dimensional objects that define daily life and our culture) as well as photographs, documents, and ephemera, is unlike any other collection elsewhere. 

Preserving the collection for future generations, with the artifacts’ role as ambassadors and storytellers for the museum, is central to JANM’s ideology.

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Reference Materials

Access reference books, films, and certain government records in the Hirasaki National Resource Center.

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Collections Access

Learn how you can access the collection for conducting research, licensing, and exhibition loans.

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Artifact Donations

Find out how to donate your family's artifacts to JANM.

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Featured Collections

Miné Okubo Collection

Miné Okubo Collection

(2007.62) This online collection of 197 drawings by artist Mine Okubo (1912–2001) illustrates her life in the Tanforan assembly center in San Bruno, CA and the Topaz concentration camp in Utah during World War II. Okubo’s drawings served as the basis for her renowned book, Citizen 13660, which was printed in 1946 and was the first personal account published on the camp experience.

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Image: Gift of Mine Okubo Estate (2007.62.23)

Jack Iwata Collection

Jack Iwata Collection

(93.102) The online collection of photographer Jack Iwata includes 166 photographs and copy negatives taken at Manzanar and Tule Lake concentration camps between 1942 and 1945.

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Image: Gift of Jack and Peggy Iwata (93.102.159)

Clara Breed Collection

Clara Breed Collection

(93.75.31) The online collection of Clara Breed, or "Miss Breed" as she was known by her young library patrons, includes over 300 letters and cards received by Breed from Japanese American children and young adults during their World War II incarceration.

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Items in this collection were featured in the exhibition Dear Miss Breed: Letters from Camp.

Image: Gift of Elizabeth Y. Yamada (93.75.31AD)

Mori Shimada Collection

Sakamoto-Sasano Collection

(2018.10) This collection contains documents, objects, and ephemera from the Sakamoto-Sasano family. The belongings of matriarch Taye Sakamoto Sasano, her sister Chiyoko Sakamoto Takahashi, and her two daughters Louise Sasano Yoshida and Frances Sasano make up the bulk of the collection. Yearbooks, school notebooks, scrapbooks, diaries, and notes from friends characterize Frances and Louise's lives as teens and young adults experiencing incarceration. Photos, citizenship documents, business cards, and letters characterize lives of familial support and financial success and after being released from camp.

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Image: Gift of Scott and Jennifer Yoshida (2018.10.126r)

Unboxed Videos

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Unboxed: Heart of the Museum - Featuring the Kondo and Sakamoto-Sasano Collections

    Unboxed: Heart of the Museum - Featuring the Kondo and Sakamoto-Sasano Collections

    Other Ways to Explore the Collection

    Finding Aids

    Finding Aids

    The Online Archive of California (OAC) provides public access to descriptions of primary resource collections of over 200 contributing institutions. Please check out our finding aids (research guides) for collections such as the Norman Y. Mineta Papers, American Friends Service Committee Collection, and more.

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    Image: Chiyoko Sakamoto’s locket. Gift of Scott and Jennifer Yoshida (2018.10.10)

    Moving Images Collection

    Moving Images Collection

    JANM has published a trove of rare home-movie footage from the Museum’s historic collections on its Discover Nikkei website. 

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    Image: Still from TOPAZ, filmed by Dave Tatsuno. Gift of Dave Tatsuno, in Memory of Walter Honderich (91.74.1)

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