The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens unveiled two new installations in its Bunka centre last week. Visitors will be able to learn stories of Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta through an interactive sound booth and a time map feature on the wall.
“These two installations highlight what I most appreciate about this collaborative work — connections with community organizations and members, publicly accessible histories, and adding nuance and complexity to little known histories,” said Dr. Carly Adams,
professor and director for the Centre for Oral History at the University of Lethbridge.
“It has been a pleasure and privilege being involved in these installations and involving undergraduate and graduate students in this vital work.”
Part of the Nikkei Memory Capture Project, the installation shows off a community-based oral history project that explores the cultural and social histories of Japanese Canadians in Southern Alberta.
It was funded through the University of Lethbridge, the University of Plymouth and the social sciences and humanity research council.
“It’s so exciting to be able to share the wonderfully distinctive histories of Japanese Canadians in southern Alberta that the Nikkei Memory Capture Project has been privileged to explore,” said Dr. Darren Aoki, associate professor of world history and oral
history at the University of Plymouth.
“But, more than that, they are the blossoming in very tangible ways of so many innovative collaborations, exciting partnerships, and close friendships: with the Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden, the Centre for Oral History and Tradition; between the University of Plymouth and University of Lethbridge, and most importantly, with the many individuals who have so generously shared their memories, stories, and wisdom with us.”
The sound booth, called a memory booth, allows the public to hear and share stories and memories. It includes a community notice board that shows photos that little is known about and gives people an opportunity to fill in gaps of information.
“It’s really in that kind of spirit to democratize history, to empower people to inscribe themselves right into the historical record. That’s probably one of the key things that we are aiming at,” Aoki said.
The project will continue with digital storytelling workshops. This will include the creation of films to create a public archive, according to Aoki. There are also books being written as part of the project.
The memory project focuses on 1950 to the present, according to Adams. It aims to share how Japanese Canadians settled and rebuilt communities and livelihoods after internment.
“What we have in a lot of the academic and public writing hasn’t gone into that space yet,” Adams said. “Southern Alberta tends to be missing from that narrative as well so we are trying to really focus on this area.”