Japanese American Service Committee (JASC) Legacy Center

From the Jerry Jiro Katayama Photograph Collection, JASC Legacy Center.

One of the objectives of JASC is to help keep alive the cultural heritage of the Japanese American community in Chicago. We do this by maintaining an archives of Japanese American life in Chicago; observing and celebrating significant cultural and historical events; holding special activities for seniors, adults, youth, children, and families; teaching classes; and maintaining close ties with other Japanese American and Asian American organizations, including hosting many at our facility.

The JASC Legacy Center is a community-based resource that collects and preserves materials reflecting the Japanese American experience in the Chicago area.  These materials are freely available to the public for research and reference purposes.  The Legacy Center seeks to preserve and promote community heritage and common understanding of the Japanese American experience as an integral part of American history. We provide reference services for our collections, can help make connections with community members, lend selected materials, and can refer to other repositories.

Our collections are available for use, by appointment, free of charge. All are welcome!

JASC Legacy Center Archives

The Legacy Center archives contains a mix of documents, photographs, audiovisual materials, artifacts, and ephemera providing a window into the experiences of Japanese American families, individuals, organizations, and businesses from the late 19th century to the present day.  The collections are particularly strong on the topics of WWII incarceration and postwar resettlement in Chicago. The archives also includes JASC’s own institutional records, which document the growth and operations of the organization from 1946 to the present.

A searchable database of finding aids (= collection descriptions and inventories) and digital images for the Legacy Center archives is currently being migrated to a new system.  For assistance locating material in the archives during this “under construction” phase, please email Legacy Center staff.  Access to the new system is now available here, but please bear in mind that the migration is on-going and our holdings are not fully represented in the new system.

JASC Legacy Center Library

The Legacy Center library holds over 800 volumes on a wide range of topics relevant to Japanese American immigration, WWII incarceration, military service, resettlement in Chicago, women’s history, and arts and culture.  The library also includes a selection of fictional works by Japanese American authors, particularly those with a connection to Chicago or the Midwest. 

To see a list of titles available in the library, please click here.

Accessing the Collections

To view the collections, you will need to make an appointment in advance and register upon arrival. Appointments are available on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For an appointment, please email the Legacy Center or call 773-275-0097 ext. 222 a minimum of two business days prior to your desired appointment date.  Due to COVID-19, anyone visiting the JASC building, including Legacy Center visitors, will be required to wear a face mask at all times.

Materials in the archives are non-circulating and may only be used on-site.

Materials in the library collection are available for anyone to consult on-site, and some items are available for circulation to current JASC members.

All researchers will be asked to follow these procedures:

  • All researchers must complete a Legacy Center registration form and show current photo identification.
  • Most Legacy Center material is stored in closed stacks and will be retrieved for you by a staff member. Please allow time for this.
  • To preserve Legacy Center materials, food, drink, and smoking are not permitted in the research area.
  • Due to risk of inadvertent damage to the materials, researchers will use pencil only and may not use pens. Tracing of Legacy Center material is not permitted.
  • All researchers must store their personal belongings including book bags and coats outside the research area, with the exception of paper, pencil, notebooks, and a laptop computer or similar electronic device.
  • Upon exiting the research area, all items removed by researchers are subject to search to ensure that Legacy Center material is not inadvertently removed.
  • Reproduction of Legacy Center material is permitted in most cases. Please consult staff with specific reproduction requests.
  • Any reproductions provided by the Legacy Center are for personal/reference use only.  If you wish to publish, exhibit, display, or further reproduce images of Legacy Center material, please contact staff for the current publication permissions request procedure. Researchers assume sole responsibility for any infringement of literary rights, copyright, or other rights pertaining to the materials they publish.
  • Theft, destruction, or mutilation of the Legacy Center’s materials is strictly forbidden and punishable by law.
  • Researchers agree to give the Legacy Center a complimentary copy of any publication relying substantially on its collections.

Donating to the Legacy Center

Black and white image of a young child dressed in a yukata with arms outstretched, standing on grass with many other similarly dressed children visible in the background.
From the Mary and James Numata Photograph Collection, JASC Legacy Center.

The Legacy Center welcomes donations from the community. The preservation of the Japanese American experience depends on people like you. We collect all types of materials – in English or Japanese – that document the Japanese American community history in Chicago and elsewhere. These items include:

  • letters
  • memoirs and reminiscences
  • diaries, journals, and notebooks
  • scrapbooks
  • yearbooks
  • oral histories
  • family documents
  • legal documents such as birth, immigration, marriage, and death records
  • professional papers, speeches, and lectures
  • business records and reports
  • subject files
  • directories from the community, churches, temples, or groups
  • photographs, negatives, photo albums, and slides
  • videos, films, and audio tapes
  • newspapers, including clippings
  • books
  • magazines, journals, periodicals, and newsletters
  • dissertations, articles, and school papers
  • brochures, flyers, notices, and advertisements
  • organizational records

Because the research value of records may be diminished if items are damaged, rearranged, or incomplete, please contact the Legacy Center before sorting, discarding, or reorganizing your papers and records. When in doubt, don’t throw it out!

Please contact the Legacy Center via email, or call 773-275-0097 ext. 222. before bringing or sending any materials.  No donations can be accepted without prior approval of Legacy Center staff.

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