By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
While the first celebration was with Michelle Obama in the White House, this time, it was a party for the Little Tokyo community.
Staff, volunteers and board officers of the Japanese American National Museum celebrated receiving the 2010 National Medal for Museum and Library Services — the nation’s highest honor bestowed to libraries and museums — with cake and sake at a brief ceremony on Friday morning.
“This is not something one or two, or a handful won — you’ve all won,” said Akemi Kikumura-Yano, JANM president and chief executive officer. “The Japanese American National Museum was recognized for innovation, community outreach and our inclusiveness. Since we were founded in 1985, these have been our core values.”
In December, Kikumura-Yano, board chairman emeritus Ernest Doizaki and community member Paul Takemoto accepted the medal during a ceremony at the White House. JANM was one of 10 institutions and one of only four museums nationally to be recognized by IMLS for dedication to promoting greater understanding and appreciation for America’s ethnic and cultural diversity through the lens of the Japanese American experience. It will be the recipient of $10,000 plus a visit from StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. StoryCorps will interview supporters of the museum as part of the documentation process.
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), who represents Little Tokyo, nominated the museum for the medal and said the award gives her “bragging rights” in Congress. She said she learned about the sacrifices of Japanese Americans from her father, the late Rep. Ed Roybal, and from her own experiences growing up in Boyle Heights.
“I grew up knowing this history, but I was really shocked when I went to Washington at how little understanding of Japanese American history there was among my colleagues from the Midwest and the East Coast,” said Roybal-Allard. “To get this recognition is so critical, not only because it serves to educate younger Japanese Americans, but also because there is so much divisiveness through issues such as immigration. It is more important than ever to have a museum like this one to tell the history of what happened here.”
Others joining in the celebration included Councilmember Jan Perry and Consul General Junichi Ihara.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Its mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. The institute works at the national level and in coordination with state and local organizations to sustain heritage, culture, and knowledge; enhance learning and innovation; and support professional development.