This year something magical happened.
Our film curator, Rick Prelinger, noticed a film for sale on eBay. The description said “taken at a Japanese Internment Camp,” so Rick bought it, suspecting it might be of historical significance. In October, when he digitized the 16mm reel and showed it to me, I couldn’t believe it.
On the screen was a home movie shot in 1944 at the WWII camp in Jerome, Arkansas where 8,500 Japanese Americans were incarcerated. This American concentration camp was once the fifth largest town in Arkansas. Rick thinks the film was shot by a camp administrator and hidden away for the last 73 years.
There are only a handful of movies ever shot inside the camps—I know, because my mother and grandparents were locked up in a similar camp for three and a half years.
What a miracle, then, that the Internet Archive found this film and preserved it while there are still people who can bear witness to what we see on screen. One of them, Sab Masada, was 12 years old when a truck came to haul his family away from their farm in Fresno. At our annual event, Sab remembered:
We were shipped to Jerome, Arkansas. It turned extremely cold, the beginning of November. In fact, we had some snow. The camp was still being completed so our barracks had no heat and my father caught pneumonia. 21 days after we arrived, he died in a makeshift barrack hospital…
This film will tell America that these concentration camps we were in—it wasn’t a myth! They were real. So it’s a historical record: proof of what really happened to 120,000 Americans and legal residents.
The best part for me? That this film will live on at archive.org, accessible to the public, forever, for free. Filmmakers can download it. Scholars can study it. Teachers can weave it into their lessons.
Here’s our promise to you: the Internet Archive will keep updating these files every time a major, new format emerges. We will preserve them for the long term, against fire, neglect and all types of more human disaster. We will cherish your stories as if they were our own.
I’m part of a small staff of 150, running a site the whole world depends on. I’ve worked at huge media corporations where the only things that matter are the ratings, because ratings = profits. At the end of the day, I couldn’t stomach it. I wanted to do more. I wanted to work at a place aligned with my values: creating a world where everyone has equal access to knowledge, because knowledge equals power. It’s society’s great leveler—at least that’s how it worked for my family.
This is why I give to the Internet Archive: because I believe every story deserves to be saved for the future.
When you give, you’re helping make sure the whole world can access the books, concerts, radio shows, web pages and yes, the home movies, that tell our human story.
So please, support our mission by donating today. Right now, a very generous supporter will match your donation 3-to-1, so you can triple your impact.
Think of it as an investment in our children, and their children, so that one day in the future, they might understand our joys and learn from our mistakes.
—Wendy Hanamura, Director of Partnerships, Internet Archive