The Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection: Uncovering Layers

Since I began my time with Go For Broke National Education Center, one of the exciting projects I have been able to take on is processing the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection. This opportunity came about as I stumbled upon a picture from Sugiyama’s collection and proceeded to briefly research his story and publish it in this blog.

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Items from the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection processed by Gavin Do. The following items include (left to right): Sugiyama’s Purple Heart citation; leather portfolio with life insurance documents; and monogrammed ring.

As Sugiyama’s story began to emerge and become more visible, our archives department began to use his collection as an example to continue asking questions that apply to our non-digital archives collections here at Go For Broke. These questions included:

Where did this collection come from?

How did GFBNEC acquire this collection?

Who are the people represented in these collections?

Where are the locations that are represented in these collections?

What are the dates of events or items represented in these collections?

Does this fit into the Nisei soldier narrative that we are attempting to tell?

There are many more questions that we have had to ask as a staff regarding our collections. Luckily, our questions were met with answers in the case of the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection. Archivists use the term provenance in order to describe where items or a collection has been or come from in its past, starting from the origin with the creator to its current whereabouts (and everything in between). For the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection, we are initially unaware of the provenance of the collection other than that many of the items came from Hiroshi himself. We were in luck, however, because our archives staff was able to find information regarding the provenance of the Sugiyama collection. Staff found a copy Torch from 2006 that publicized the purchase of the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection from an auction. While that explained where the collection came from, the collection still needed to be physically processed. Upon doing that, we realized that a number of items were missing from the collection. Upon reviewing the paperwork, however, we came to the conclusion that the missing items were not missing, but actually on loan to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Finding an old press release, featuring our own Don Seki of the 442nd RCT, confirmed these thoughts:

Don Seki Museum of Tolerance
Wells, Annie –– – 131981.ME.1220.stamp Press conference at The Museum of Tolerance for support of Japanese American WWII vets to get a US postage stamp in their honor. Don Seki, of the 100th Infantry Battalion, stands in front of a display case at the museum that contains artifacts of Hiroshi Sugiyama, a medic in the US Army who earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Good Conduct medal. Sugiyama was killed while administering first aid to a wounded soldier near Tendola, Italy.photo by Annie Wells 12/20/07. Courtesy of Getty Images. Editorial #563981693. Part of LA Times Collection.

We have since contacted the Museum of Tolerance and had very pleasant conversations with them regarding continued collaboration with the Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection.

The purpose of this blog post is multifaceted. For one, I always love bringing more attention to the Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection. I think it is a collection full of history, context, and research value that tells the story of a brave soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice. Secondly, I think that it is important that as an archives staff, we explain and display what we do and how we do it. Archives is admittedly a very obscure and abstract field of work, and we want to be transparent with the community about our developments. We recognize that Go For Broke is an organization that has a team of outstanding volunteers and supporters, and we rely on all of you to survive. The supporters need to be kept in the loop.

That being said, we as an archives staff want to express our excitement that items from the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection are on exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance. Their exposure and traffic will allow the collection to tell the story of Hiroshi Sugiyama, and by extension, the story of the Nisei soldier.

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Check out the “Defining Courage” Exhibition!

Have you seen our new exhibition?  In late May, we opened The Defining Courage Experience, a hands-on and participatory learning center in the heart of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo historic district. The exhibition explores the concept of courage through the lives of the young Japanese Americans of World War II, and asks modern visitors to act with similar courage in their own lives.

The exhibition is one-of-a-kind in its dynamic, hands-on, and experience-based approach, engaging visitors through participatory learning experiences. These experiences teach the history of the Japanese American World War II story and its relevance to our lives today. This isn’t your typical history museum!

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Photos by Jon Endow

Throughout the exhibition, visitors get to “meet” hundreds of young Japanese American men and women from the World War II era.  Our archivists worked hard to find photographs, quotes, and oral history clips from throughout our entire collection, and these are powerfully presented in the exhibits and hands-on activities.  Countless hours were spent by our archivists, and the result is an exhibition centered around the real first-person stories of hundreds of young WWII soldiers and their contemporaries.  In interactive high-tech and low-tech exhibits, visitors feel that they really “meet” these young men and women, discovering their courage first-hand as they experience our exhibition.  Visitors can even make their own mini-documentaries, using our vast collection of historic photos and oral history videos!

Our exhibition is one way that we bring our archives out of the “old dusty boxes” and into the public knowledge.  Our archivists are experts at discovering the most powerful, historic, and important pieces in our collection, and they love using numerous methods to showcase these to the public.  It is through their hard work that our organization raises awareness of the Nisei soldier story and its continued relevance to our world today.  If you haven’t stopped by our exhibition yet, pop in and see the fruit of their labors!

http://www.goforbroke.org/visit/exhibit/index.php

Kim Ida Surh on Freedom

Post written by Summer Espinoza, Director of Archives and Special Collections at Go For Broke National Education Center


As I reflect on this Independence Day weekend, I hope sharing this brief segment from Kim Ida Surh’s oral history interview will resonate and inspire others to reflect on the meaning of patriotism and freedom as it inspired me.

Surh was born in Nogales, Arizona in 1915, grew up in Los Angeles, California and volunteered as an Army nurse in World War Two. Surh explains what patriotism and freedom meant to her and why she felt compelled to volunteer.

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CLICK HERE TO VIEW INTERVIEW SEGMENT