Museum Picks

John Esaki’s pick: Autobiography Box

The Autobiography Box is a provocative set of exercises to help people remember, reconstruct and examine their pasts. The Box includes a book and cards filled with quotes, questions, directions and exercises designed to help a person write an autobiography. (Examples: Is there a piece of music that reminds you of a particular time and place in your life? or Describe a significant quarrel between yourself and a family member.)

The Box is particularly intriguing to me because part of my work here at the National Museum involves videotaping interviews for the productions of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center. One of the most vital resources housed at the Japanese American National Museum is our collection of video life histories of the Nisei. These extensive interviews feature a wealth of stories and experiences that give us a vivid picture of the life and history of our community.

I strongly urge every family to record life histories of family members using a camcorder, and The Autobiography Box supplies a variety of entertaining strategies to tap into people's memories and encourage them to write and talk about their lives. When interviewing a person, I often find it difficult to get more than brief, generalized answers, but the exercises provided by The Box are certain to produce unique and detailed responses.

Warning: A couple of the questions included in The Box are definitely intended for a mature adult’s recollections.

John Esaki is a staff member of the Frank H. Watase Media Arts Center, the digital video production department of the Japanese American National Museum. He has directed several of the Museum’s videos, including Harsh Canvas: The Art & Life of Henry Sugimoto, and Top of Their Game.

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