Muddling through the blogosphere

Time of Remembrance: Move Over Ken Burns!


“History happens one person at a time.” Nikos Theodosakis

Several major projects have taken over my life during the last six weeks (which accounts for my lapse in posting and responding). At the top of my list is the Time of Remembrance oral histories project and website, a resource that includes the living voices of eighteen Japanese-American citizens who experienced discrimination, exclusion, and forced removal from the west coast during WWII.


Three years ago, Marielle Tsukamoto, an Elk Grove educator who has become a friend, mentor, and constant source of inspiration, and I had a conversation about the need to document and preserve the stories of local residents who, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, lost all rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Our aim was to produce broadcast-quality interviews that would be available online. We wanted teachers to review the interviews, select clips that aligned to their grade-level or subject area standards and curriculum, and integrate the clips into sample lessons. We applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant in order to cover the cost of a professional videographer (Sacramento Eudcational Cable Consortium‘s own Doug Niva), university advisors, historians, and archivists (CSUS’s Wayne Mayeda, Lori Hammond, Janie Lowe, and Georgiana White), and stipends for our teacher team. We did not get the grant…and that turned out to be a good thing.

leaving-for-camp-reiko-sis2.jpgThanks to much in-kind time from SECC and the CSUS team, and the support of EGUSD Tech Services, and some funding from our Teaching American History Grant, we were able to do exactly what I proposed in the above, minus any of the bureaucratic reporting requirements that are part of an NEH package.

If you have been following the Ken Burns World War II series, you already know that Sacramento was one of the featured cities. Prior to the opening week of the series, Ken Burns came to the Sacramento Museum for History, Women and the Arts for a promotion. Marielle gave him a tour of the Museum’s Time of Remembrance exhibit and told him that the Elk Grove School District would soon have an online collection of interviews with the internees. He asked Marielle to contact him when we went live with the Interview Archives section of the website, which she will do sometime this week when it becomes the feature story for our district website. I think he will be impressed. I am. This project is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with a little bandwidth and a lot of collaboration.

Unlike the War series, the Time of Remembrance Interview Archive clips are available for teachers 24/7 – no cost and no need to ask permission to download and use for classroom purposes:-) . And…there is more to come…We’ve conducted eight more interviews and next month plan to do a walking tour of the remnants of Marysville’s Japantown. Two of our interviewees will serve as our guides as they reconstruct their memories of this agricultural community in the pre-WWII years.

Note: To listen to the interview clips that go with the above photographs, visit Reiko Nagumo’s interview.

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  1. This is great stuff! I’ll certainly be using it in my history classes, and will share this resource on my blog.

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  3. Thanks, Larry. If you want to share anything about how you use the clips, just send me the information (or lesson). I would love to add a TOR to Sac City link!

  4. This is a marvelous project. In 2001 my 5th and 6th graders did an oral history project called Guardians of Freedom. We interviewed 54 WWII veterans. You can see the interviews and all the hoopla that took place before and after at The reason I mention this is that I know that when I retire I will look back and say this is the best work I ever did as a teacher. I still hear from people almost 7 years later who want to get in touch with one of the veterans to see if they knew or fought beside their father, uncle or grandfather. Very rarely as teachers do we have opportunities to change peoples’ lives. Everyone one who was invloved in our project, students, parents, volunteers and veterans were changed by it and I’m sure that is true with Time of Remembrance. Keep up the good work.

  5. Nancy, I’m looking at Guardians of Freedom website right now. It is wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I would like to include and showcase it as a TOR website resource. Would that be ok?

  6. Gail, I don’t know what TOR is, but sure go ahead and showcase Guardians of Freedom. We did another primary source project this past spring call CSI:Cemetery Scene Investigation It was fun but didn’t have the human interest of the veterans project (since all the participants were dead!!) Let me know if you write about our projects. Thanks, N.

  7. Nancy, every time I visit one of your online projects, I am amazed at the scope and importance of the work your students are doing. My head is spinning with ideas of how to replicate your CSI project!

    The Elk Grove area has virtually overnight buried its rural past under suburban housing developments…Yet, on the outskirts there is the tiny farming community of Franklin, sort of a time capsule of an agricultural past. To get to Franklin Elementary School, believe it or not, you drive through a historic cemetery. Its most famous resident, Alexander Hamilton Willard, was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

    Hmmm….To be continued!

    Oh, TOR = Time of Remembrance

  8. The CSI project idea was not original—I read about it in the summer of 2006 at Edutopia–contacted the two gals who did it original to ask permission to replicate it. We, of course, ended up with a much larger project. They’d hoped that their idea would take off but only a couple of schools have done it. Focus on NCLB has really dampened the enthusiasm of any classroom teacher to take on a “non-tested” project, especially one that takes months to complete. Thanks for the kudos.

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