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Michelle Obama Presents Highest Honors for Museums to Japanese American National Museum
First lady Michelle Obama speaks before presenting the 2010 National Medals for Museum and Library Science, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 17, 2010. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite.

LAS ANGELES, CA.- The Japanese American National Museum was presented the Institute of Museums and Library Services’ (IMLS) National Medal, the nation’s highest honor for museums, by First Lady Michelle Obama in ceremonies at the White House on Friday, December 17, 2010. The National Medal was accepted by National Museum President & CEO Akemi Kikumura Yano, Board Chairman Emeritus Ernest Doizaki, and community member Paul Takemoto.

Institutions are presented with the National Medal by IMLS in recognition for their "extraordinary civic, educational, economic, environmental, and social contributions." The National Medal for Museum and Library Service was created to underscore the important role played by these institutions throughout the nation. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.

"The Japanese American National Museum is deeply honored as one of only 10 institutions to receive the IMLS’ National Medal in 2010," Kikumura Yano stated. "We are one of only four institutions in California to be so recognized since 1994 and one of only two museums in the state, so we are very humbled as a National Medal recipient. Our many supporters should feel proud that their contributions have made this possible."

The National Museum is celebrating its 25th Anniversary since its incorporation in 1985. Founded without a site and endowment and organized almost entirely with volunteers, the Japanese American National Museum has renovated a historic former Buddhist temple building and constructed a modern Pavilion while creating landmark exhibitions, innovative public programs and groundbreaking curriculum in the 25 years of its existence. Its mission is to create greater understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity through the lens of the Japanese American experience.

Attending the ceremonies at the White House was U.S. Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-34th District), who nominated the Japanese American National Museum for the National Medal. Congresswoman Roybal-Allard explained, "For more than 25 years, the Japanese American National Museum has demonstrated that a grassroots community organization can fulfill its educational mission both nationally and even internationally. At its core, the museum preserves the story of Americans of Japanese ancestry as an integral part of U.S. history, but its ability to share that story with other communities in an open and collaborative manner enriches us all."

Paul Takemoto is a spokesperson for the Federal Aviation Administration. He and his family attended a national conference in Arkansas organized by the Museum and came away with a different perspective on their lives. Chosen as the Museum’s community member, Takemoto wrote, "My mom once told me that she felt shame for being put in a camp (by the government during World War II).

She said she felt like she must've done something wrong -- that it was her fault. I think that goes a long way toward explaining the shame that others feel, and the silence. But going to the conference began a healing process for her, late in life. It did the same for her sisters. We all relate to each other differently. I don't mean to sound maudlin, but it's as if those backdrops have been lifted -- they no longer loom over our lives."

Besides the National Medal, the Museum will be the recipient of $10,000 plus a visit from StoryCorps, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, preserving, and sharing the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs. StoryCorps will interview supporters of the National Museum as part of the documentation process.

Japanese American National Museum | Institute of Museums and Library Services | Michelle Obama | Los Angeles |

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