The Legacy Center’s collections consist of four general types of material:

  • manuscript (personal papers) archives
  • library (printed) sources
  • JASC organizational records
  • artifacts

These descriptions are summaries only. Please consult with the Legacy Center via email, or phone 773.275.0097 ext. 222, regarding appropriate sources for your particular needs.

Manuscript Archives

Manuscript collections are personal papers donated by individuals. Despite being called “papers,” these collections contain many different formats of information.

The Legacy Center Archives, formally established in 1999, is part of the cultural arm of JASC. It houses over 300 unique collections.

The archives documents all facets of Japanese American life from 1890, through the period of World War II internment, and on to the present day. Materials include correspondence and photographs about business life in the 1940s and ’50s; diaries and journals; sketch books and drawings of life in the internment camps; artifacts made in the camps; rare published materials such as camp newspapers and high school yearbooks; information pamphlets targeting Japanese Americans; and vital records such as alien registration cards and U.S. Army service records.

The JASC Archives is arguably the most significant collection of Japanese American history, arts and cultural materials in the Midwest, and the only significant collection documenting life outside the West Coast population centers.

The Legacy Center Archives project is supported in part by a Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior, with additional support from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and the MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

Library Collection

The JASC Library contains approximately 800 titles on Japanese and Japanese American history, culture, politics, arts, and literature. The strongest areas of the collection are Japanese American history in the United States, and fiction in the Japanese language. Within Japanese American history, the Library has many titles on Japanese American veterans, evacuation and internment, resettlement, and the redress movement. Other topics include Japanese history, culture, and the arts; Japanese Latin American history; Asian American history, politics, arts, and literature; and Asian American children’s literature.

Formats include oral histories, books, reports, magazines, journals, newspapers (including the bilingual Chicago Shimpo), newsletters, directories, Kamishibai (Japanese folktale) storytelling kits, broadsides (posters), videotapes, CDs, and DVDs. The Library also has a collection of ephemera (bulletins, flyers, notices, and other one-time publications) from local Japanese American and Asian American organizations. Of particular interest are published and unpublished speeches, articles, papers, theses, and dissertations on Japanese American history in Chicago and in the United States. These papers are particularly valuable because they may not be found elsewhere. Other unique resources include directories of Japanese American individuals and businesses in metropolitan Chicago and newspaper-clipping scrapbooks dating from 1948-1959 and 1964-1966 covering Japanese American community activities in Chicago (focusing primarily on the JASC).

The Legacy Center will lend selected material such as library books, videos, and Kamishibai (Japanese folktale) storytelling kits for one week to one month (depending on the item). Everyone is welcome to borrow circulating material provided that you complete a Legacy Center registration form.

JASC Organizational Records

The Legacy Center houses the JASC’s organizational records. These documents are organized into record groups (RG), which follow the structure of the organization and the areas of expertise/functional responsibilities for each department or unit. Records of one staff member are separate from those of other staff members and are kept in the order that the creator used. Naturally the content of material will overlap among record groups. However, the goal is to keep records in the record group belonging to the staff member who has primary responsibility for the activity or program. Formats include paper, computer files, slides, photographs, videotapes, films, negatives, contact sheets, and architectural drawings.

Record groups include:
RG1 – Board of Directors*
RG2 – Executive Board
RG3 – Executive Director*
RG4 – Administration Series 3 (independent auditor’s reports),† Series 4 (administrative assistant’s files)†
RG5 – Development/Public Relations†
RG6 – Heiwa Terrace (a senior residence built by the JASC)
RG7 – Keiro Extended Care Center (a nursing home built by the JASC)
RG8 – Social Services Series 1 (director’s files),† Series 2 (Adult Day Services),* Series 3 (social work)*
RG9 – Publications*
RG10 – Audio-Visual Media
RG11 – Legacy Center (Archives & Library)
RG12 – Nikkei Community Assessment Project

* Finding aid available on request. Researchers must secure permission to examine these records.
† Finding aid available on request. Some restrictions on access to records may apply.

Most of these records are available for research use. However, access to some JASC records may be restricted.


Housed in the Legacy Center are many unique and interesting artifacts that document the Japanese American community in the metropolitan Chicago area. Selected highlights include:

  • Artifacts used or made during or shortly after internment (mid-1940s to early 1950s) including a rice sack slip and dishtowel, a hot water bottle, and wooden objects carved from local materials.
  • Chest of drawers constructed from shipping crates at Granada Relocation Center, Amache, Colorado around 1943.
  • An “Eisenhower jacket” worn by a member of the Military Intelligence Service who served in the Pacific front during World War II.
  • A decorative plaque made from scrap wood at the Rohwer (Arkansas) Relocation Center in 1944

These and other items are available for observation and research at the Legacy Center. Some items may be available on loan for exhibit purposes to other institutions that meet borrowing requirements.

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