Greetings from Southern California! I’m the Web Manager at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. For those who aren’t familiar with our museum, our mission is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.
I’m responsible for managing all of our websites (janm.org, DiscoverNikkei.org, janmstore.com, and ncdemocracy.org), and mass email outreach (we use Constant Contact). Recently, we’ve also started Facebook groups and Twitter accounts for our museum in general and also specifically to support the Discover Nikkei project.
I’ve been working there for 14 years now—the first 10 years in the Museum Store where I set up our online store. Most of what I know I’ve learned on the job through research and trial and error. I really love what I do. Every day it seems I learn something new, and the fact that I get to use the internet to share our community’s stories with a global audience is so exhilarating and rewarding. I feel like, in my own way, I’m doing my little part to creating a better understanding of cultural diversity.
That’s why my favorite project (and obsession) is our Discover Nikkei project. I don’t mean just the website, but the entire project. The project’s real strength is in the global network we’ve built that includes organizations and individuals locally, nationally, and internationally. The real heart of the project though are the community stories and voices that are being documented and shared. The approach we take is rather than us, as an institution, saying this is what it means to be Nikkei (people of Japanese descent and their descendants living around the world), we provide a platform where people can share what it means to be Nikkei from their own perspectives. It’s through the amassing of these individual stories and resources that people can gain an understanding of the diversity and similarities within the Nikkei experience.
It’s not an easy project. The site is in four languages—the interfaces and top-level text are translated, but most of the content is available in just the original languages. I’m completely fluent in English only. Our project coordinator is fluent in Japanese, fairly fluent in English, and knows enough Spanish to get by in most cases. Neither of us know Portuguese. With the help of our global network though, we’ve been able to keep the site going and growing for four years now.
Partnerships, like any relationships, require a lot of work to develop and nurture over time. It’s an exciting time for the project. We’re in the process of a major redesign and upgrades to the site. The work we’ve put in to developing community connections these past four years are really starting to bear fruit. At the same time, we face enormous challenges. Our major project funding is ending, so we’re doing all that we can to ensure that the project is sustainable, including changing the way we work with our institutional partners, looking for new funding sources, learning how to work more effectively with volunteers, and making the site as engaging as we can, because without that we can’t accomplish anything else.
The feedback that we’ve been receiving for the project and the site-in-progess has been very encouraging. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, let me know if you’re interested in giving us feedback on our new site.