Overall, I found the “Perfect Union” website very interesting and full of helpful resources for future research. This website presents a wide range of useful information on the Japanese American experience during World War II, including Japanese American involvement in the military, as well as a lot of background on immigration and the events prior to the war that led to the United States government’s decision to relocate over 120,000 Japanese Americans and discussions of the aftereffects of this decision in the post-war era. This collection of information is displayed in an easy to navigate, well layed-out, and aesthetically pleasing manner.
All the physical elements of the website work well together, making the experience all the more enjoyable. The music and audio clips add another layer of explanation to the content. The background is unobtrusive and compliments the text and photos. The text itself is in an easy-to-read font that does not detract from the flow of the site as a whole.
The information is presented in logical outlines that make it relatively easy to find desired information. Main ideas are grouped together with subset categories that provide a more in depth discussion of the material. Brief quotes of the content of each page, as well as related images that accompany each heading provide the viewer with an idea of what each link will contain, without having to actually go to the link first to find out.
The pictures can be enlarged for easier viewing and a description of the image and its bibliographical information are displayed as well. I found this feature particularly useful when I looked at the picture of the infamous “questionnaire” given to internees to assess their loyalty and willingness to participate in the military. I was able to enlarge the image until I could actually read it, something I had been interested in doing since it was first discussed in class.
The “Collection Search” section allows a user to find information based on topic, which could be very useful in researching a specific aspect of the general subject. I tried this section out for my final project (on art in the internment camps) and found many applicable results, ranging from oil paintings by interned artist Henry Sugimoto, to wood carvings and wire baskets fashioned by several internees, to Hawaiian shirts depicting Japanese calligraphy, scenes of soldiers in combat, and involvement in the Military Intelligence Service. This section is a very good resource, which I plan to use more fully in the future.
I thought that the perspective of the website was relatively neutral, but with an understandably sympathetic slant towards the Japanese American point of view. However, all in all, I thought the site portrayed the information in an objective, historical manner that seemed to value accuracy and impartiality.
Furthermore, the inclusion of a section devoted to “Reflections,” shows that the site’s authors are open to suggestions, corrections, and criticisms, which can only lead to additional improvements in the future. The invitation for people to “share their own memories and reflections” as well as read those of other visitors suggests an ongoing dialogue between the creators of the website, the actual survivors of this experience, and current generations that wish to learn and think about this experience in the context of present events.
Lee Wasser October 21, 2002
American Studies Response Essay
Almost immediately following the Japanese attack on the United States naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S government ordered almost 120,000 Japanese Americans to be relocated into internment camps in which they would live the next three years of their. Despite such a significant event in American history, information regarding the relocation efforts proves limited. Websites like, “Japanese Internment Camps,” (http://www.uwec.edu/geography/Ivogeler/w188/j1.htm) provide information in the forms of personal accounts and photographs without presenting the necessary background information required to fully understand not only the actual internment camps, but also their effect on the Japanese American community during both the 1940s and today. In contrast, a fairly new website entitled, “A More Perfect Union” (http://americanhistory.si.edu/perfectunion/experience/index.html) not only exhibits information pertaining to the background of Asian Americans, (i.e. immigration and home life prior to the U.S involvement in World War II) but also demonstrates in great detail the personal effect of the camps as well as their effect on the entire Asian American community. Moreover, the user-friendly arrangement of the website in addition to its story-like appeal provides an entertaining, detailed and perceptive look into Asian immigration in the U.S and the consequences of the troubling 1940s.
Upon first entering the website, the viewer is presented with audio commentary providing a brief introduction to the site and its contents. The commentary itself used attention grabbers as well as factual information in order to keep the viewer interested and eager to learn more. In addition, the use of media other than literature sparks even more interest with the audience. Moreover, a mini slide show exhibiting the United States Constitution, as well as other pictures demonstrating racism towards Japanese Americans provided added effect to urge the viewer on to the meat of the website.
The Website itself as a factual source proves extraordinary. It provides information dealing with Japanese immigration, their removal from their homes, life in the internment camps, Japanese loyalty to the U.S, Japanese who enlisted in the armed forces, and the after effects of the turbulent times. Furthermore, each category is complete with its own subcategories dealing more closely with specific aspects in order to better inform the viewer. For example, under the category “Immigration,” the websites provides information in the subcategories, “Issei:The First Generation,” “Hawaii,” “US Mainland,” and “Legalizing Racism.” Each of these subcategories contains a small gallery complete with pictures and small paragraphs presenting factual information to the viewer. By utilizing pictures as well as factual information, the website enables the viewer to see visual representations of the information he/she is learning while at the same time allowing the audience to make their own conclusions regarding the material.
Although the website serves as an excellent reference source in gathering information about Japanese American History, its story like appeal not only attracts viewers but also keeps them interested and eager to learn more. For example, the section entitled, “Service” contains a subcategory entitled “100th and 442nd” describing detailed accounts of battles in which the 100th infantry battalion participated. Moreover, individual memories, like those of Rudy Tokiwo, describe in great detail the determination of the battalion, giving the website an individualized appeal while enabling the viewer to picture the experiences of the speaker.
In regards to the physical layout of the website, the interface consists of a storyboards containing pictures, captions, and small paragraphs of which the audience has complete viewing control. Such a layout allows the viewer easy and fast access to whatever strikes his/her interest without the complications of website links. In addition, the website’s pictures give the viewer the option of clicking on them and receiving a closer look as well as an even more detailed description of the picture and its relevance.
On the whole, the website entitled, “A More Perfect Union” provides an abundance of information without loosing the viewer’s interest. Its story-like appeal as well as the user-friendly interface adds to its attractiveness and credibility. Furthermore, through the use of pictures and personal accounts, the website allows the audience to learn about Asian Americans during World War II while at the same time drawing their own conclusions regarding the government and the actions of Asian Americans. Moreover, the storyboard layout of the entire website provides the viewer with easy access to all that interests him/her.
9th grade student from california
i am doing a report on the japanese internment camps and i never realized how important this is to our history. great website.....good info
My grandparents were German immigrants living in the Midwest during World War II. They regarded themselves as Americans-- as did the Japanese-Americans. The difference between the two groups of immigrants was racial. The dynamic was racism, plain and simple.
Kudos to the team that put together the “More Perfect Union” website, it is truly excellent. The website is very engaging and encourages its viewer to interact and participate with the various features. Much information is available in every section, and it encourages its viewer to learn because of the ease of use and superb format. I loved the way the sections were set up as a timeline, and you could drag the bar to go to the next topic. This aspect was great for the flow of the website.
There is so much information in the website. You can easily spend many hours gazing at this site and learning about Japanese Americans during WWII. One can enter the site with a remedial knowledge of the internment and other events surrounding it and emerge with a great understanding of this topic. The presentation helps greatly as it encourages its viewer to get involved with the material.
I noticed that once you selected something from the timeline and went into that window, if that window had a graphic that you enlarged, you could not go back without closing the window and returning to the timeline (I hope that was clear). Once you opened a window, there were no links in the text. Some texts referred to specific documents and I feel that it would be helpful to link the text to the document (if possible). There is a picture from the Hawaii House of Representatives that does identify which congress it was, but does not give a date. I would like to see a conversion of some of the dollar amounts to current dollars. I used the bureau of labor and statistics website (www.bls.gov/cpi) to convert $20,000 in 1988 to 2002 dollars and got $30,600.16. Using the same site if you take twelve dollars in 1943 and convert to 2002 dollars you get $125.55. That equals $6,528.60 annually. I think that the public would be interested in these figures, and they would only have to be updates annually, so it wouldn’t be that much of an undertaking.
Keep up the good work!