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Message from the Project Director, Jordan Stanger-Ross

On Tuesday, July 25, I attended a long meeting. It ran overtime, didn’t accomplish a number of its aims, but it left me very excited. It was, in many ways, what the next phase of the project is all about. I was there as part of a team that aims, over the next 20 months (or so), to create a dynamic digital exhibit that builds upon the research of our project. Sherri Kajiwara (Director-Curator of the Nikkei National Museum and a member of our Executive Committee) called and chaired the meeting, which was held at the offices of NGX Interactive, a Vancouver company that creates cutting-edge “digital storytelling experiences” for “community-focused venues,” such as schools and museums. I was there with a Research Assistant, Kaitlin Findlay, representing Landscapes of Injustice. Filmmaker Susanne Tabata and her production team rounded out the ensemble.

The group came together around an archival finding: some 300 letters of protest written by Japanese Canadians between 1943 and 1947, letters that were ignored by bureaucrats at the time and then forgotten until they were discovered seven decades later by Landscapes of Injustice. They are powerfully expressive, complex, and diverse letters, all of them conveying the betrayal (and often sheer outrage) felt by Japanese Canadians when they discovered that they were being dispossessed of all that they owned. Having recovered the letters, our project has enriched the scholarly history of the 1940s, drawing upon them to communicate Japanese-Canadian perspectives in a number of academic publications (see, for example, this textbook entry, (https://opentextbc.ca/postconfederation/chapter/japanese-canadians-in-the-second-world-war/) which I wrote with Pam Sugiman). Such scholarly writing is important and exciting for historians.

Our meeting, however, was about something very different. We gathered to take the first steps toward producing something that historians, for the most part, cannot: something along the lines of this exhibit on Kabul,(http://kabulportraits.nfb.ca/main.html) or (don’t miss) this remarkable narrative of Vietnamese “boat people.”

(http://www.sbs.com.au/theboat/) Over the next three and a half years, our project will encourage the gathering of diverse talent around research findings—talented curators, talented teachers, talented film-makers, and talented programmers. We’ll facilitate the accomplishments of others—in this case, Sherri’s considerable accomplishment in receiving a Virtual Museum of Canada grant to fund a digital exhibit, Writing Wrongs – and we’ll support and participate as people of diverse skills elaborate on our findings in their own ways, expressing their own creativity. For public historians and our students, these are exciting meetings. They carry us outside our comfort zones and promise rich rewards. Long, complex meetings like the one last week at NGX will enable this project to achieve its aim of creating much more than very good scholarship. The first of these initiatives start with the Writing Wrongs exhibit. There is much more to come.

Read the full newsletter, LoI Summer 2017 newsletter

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