Why I Work for the Internet Archive

Wendy Hanamura, Director of Partnerships

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.

Sab Masada at the Internet Archive, October 2017

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.

Educator, Andi Wong, teaching the lessons of Japanese American incarceration at Rooftop School in San Francisco.

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

16 thoughts on “Why I Work for the Internet Archive

  1. Saburo & Marion Masada

    Thank you, Wendy, for this publicity of the wonderful work of Internet Archives. I was impressed with its work. We wish we could donate more, but our small donation is to support the important contribution of Internet Archives. Thank you. for inviting us to see and comment on the rare Jerome film footage at your Annual Event. Sab & Marion

    1. Wendy Hanamura Post author

      Oh Sab and Marion!
      You are doing so much already, talking to students around the state, so they will know that our rights and civil liberties must be defended. I’m so glad that the filmmakers who are making the new documentary about Jerome can use this footage–that’s my hope. That our work at the Archive can facilitate a thousand stories blooming. You are both national treasures! Thank you for your support.


  2. Jessica Jordan Thompson

    Wendy’s this is a beautiful miracle! I’ve always wondered and wanted to visit this place, now I feel I have a better understanding of the vast treasures that are stored in the Internet Archive. History and the documents from the past are fascinating to me. Especially since our families’ legacies are often not preserved for our next generations to grasp their roots! Thank you so much for sharing your heart and wealth of talents at The Internet Archive. I knew I should’ve been a librarian when I was a little girl, this place is on my list to visit before the year is through! 🙂

    1. Wendy Hanamura Post author

      Dear Jessica,
      I hope you will come visit us–we’re in the Richmond District of SF and invite you to lunch every Friday at noon. It’s such an amazing thing when we help families document their rich stories–that’s my passion. So glad you agree.

  3. Shari Davenport

    Wendy – What an amazing find!! I wonder if the seller has any concept of the social importance of this discovery? And the incredible contribution of historical importance that has been made possible?

    And, by the way, because of the triple match opportunity presented, I have made a second contribution to Internet Archive this year! (At least, I think it’s this year! Well, in any case, I know it’s a second contribution.)

    I’m not tooting my own horn here at all – just letting you know that another small contribution (plus the triple match gift) is coming your way right now. Being disabled, and only my husband being employed now to be supplemented by my own Disability Benefits, which is considerably smaller than my previous salary, has tightened up our budget considerably, but I have always included contributions to local charities and certain non-profits in my Christmas budget each year. I am such a frequent visitor and user of the site, I just don’t feel right about taking advantage of all its benefits and the wonderful, incredibly rare inventory it contains, without taking on a very small portion of its budget myself!

    I’ve a love for Twenties and Thirties era American architecture, including and especially kit and planbook homes, and have for several years. I have managed to supplement my “real” catalogs and planbooks collection with many of the volumes that have been placed in collection here!

    And it’s so amazing, I can carry along a large collection of reference material with me, no matter where I go, as long as I have internet access, my phone and/or my tablet, and without hauling a truckload of paper books around with me!

    I can’t begin to express my gratitude for everything that each one of you do for the World, each and every day. This simple contribution, and expression of my thanks are only a small portion of it. I wish I had the wherewithal to contribute skills or labor to the cause, but unfortunately I have nothing to offer in that respect. (Spending 15+ years working in Surgery as a C.S.T. didn’t prepare me for tasks such as those!)

    But I will continue to donate when and where I can, and encourage others to do the same, which I do as often as possible!
    Best Wishes for a fine, productive Holiday Season, and the same for 2018!

    1. Wendy Hanamura Post author

      Dear Shari,
      Your contribution means so much to us! And your kind note even more. We are so happy that the architecture materials on our site are useful and enriching to your life. That is our hope–that the internet can be a enormous tool for sharing the best that humankind has produced. Wow–we really especially appreciate your generous donation at this time when you are unable to work. Your support enables millions more around the world who cannot afford to donate to benefit from millions of books, audio, video and more. We love hearing from you!!! Thanks so very much.

  4. Claverhouse

    Many times has the Archive been useful — despite the dire quality of film and the total incomprehension as to why there is not the merest indication as to which of the rather too many download formats will be superior to the rest — and I applaud your existence; but a few years ago you went over to the vile and nauseating ‘Fat Slab’ style which is uglifying the web and which is something I cannot in good conscience reward.

    And which is why I’ve mainly stopped coming here to save my eyes.

    There have to be consequences to bad decisions.

  5. David

    There were many bad things during any war. Causing sufferings, pains and even deaths.
    It’s also happening in Indonesia, the country I live in.
    Hopefully, this film could reveal the real facts about wars and gives us the consciousness to live in peace.
    Warmest greetings from Karawang, West Java, Indonesia…

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