JASC Legacy Center Archives

JASC Legacy Center Archives

From the Miyagawa Family Photograph Collection, JASC Legacy Center.

From the Miyagawa Family Photograph Collection, JASC Legacy Center.

The JASC Legacy Center archives, formally established in 1999, is part of the cultural arm of JASC and houses the largest concentration of Japanese American materials in Chicago.  This is believed to be the only dedicated collections-holding institution of its type in the Midwestern region, documenting Japanese American life outside of the West Coast population centers.  In total, the Legacy Center archives houses approximately 400 collections with a total of approximately 850 linear feet of material.

The Legacy Center archives contains a mix of documents, photographs, audiovisual materials, artifacts, and ephemera providing a window into the experiences of Japanese American families, individuals, organizations, and businesses from the late 19th century to the present day. The collections are particularly strong on the topics of WWII incarceration and postwar resettlement in Chicago. Materials include correspondence and photographs about business life in the 1940s and ’50s; diaries and journals; sketch books and drawings of life in the incarceration 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 archives also includes JASC’s own institutional records, which document the growth and operations of the organization from 1946 to the present.

Accessing the Collections

A searchable database of finding aids (= collection descriptions and inventories) and digital images for the Legacy Center archives is currently being migrated to a new system. For assistance locating material in the archives during this “under construction” phase, please email Legacy Center staff at: Access to the new system is now available here, but please bear in mind that the migration is on-going and our holdings are not fully represented in the new system.

Items in the Legacy Center archives are non-circulating and may only be accessed on-site under staff supervision. Appointments are required and may be made by emailing Legacy Center staff at: . Appointments are available Monday-Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and must be made a minimum of two business days prior to the desired date. The earlier you submit your request, the greater the chances we will be able to accommodate your date and time preferences.


Under special circumstances, items may be loaned to other cultural heritage institutions for exhibit purposes.

Reference and Research Services

Legacy Center staff are available to assist you with your information needs. The nature of archives is such that even experienced researchers may benefit from guidance from staff at the outset of a new project. Those unable to visit in person and those unfamiliar with archival research are welcome to submit reference questions to the Legacy Center Director, and assistance will be provided to the extent possible.

When appropriate, staff may refer you to resources available from other repositories locally or nationally, may direct you to resources available digitally, and/or may recommend that you consult published works available in the Legacy Center library or other library collections.

Reproduction Services

Materials in the Legacy Center’s archival collections may be photographed by researchers with staff approval. No flash photography is permitted. Legacy Center staff are able to provide some reproduction services (scanning or digital photographs), but requests may be limited due to copyright or other legal restrictions, physical condition of the materials, and/or technical capacity of the Legacy Center’s equipment. Turnaround time for reproduction requests varies and will depend on staff availability. Large requests that exceed our staff’s capacity may be declined. The Legacy Center reserves the right to charge fees for reproduction services. In cases where fees are necessary, the requestor will be informed of the fee and given the opportunity to cancel the request prior to the commencement of any scanning work.

The Legacy Center Archives gratefully acknowledges support received over many years from the following sources:

Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant program administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior
Preservation Assistance Grant program administered by the National Endowment for the Humanities
The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation
The Alphawood Foundation

Legacy Center Highlights

Explore the archives!

Our searchable database of finding aids provides background information and an inventory for each collection.

Explore the library! 

Use LibraryThing to check our holdings.  All are welcome to use our books on-site, and JASC members can check out books if we hold more than one copy.

Enjoy our digital exhibits! 

Engaging, image-rich exhibits to help illuminate the Japanese American experience in Chicago.

Listen to your elders! 

Our oral history collection features interviews with community members reflecting on a wide variety of topics from incarceration to contemporary activism.

Watch and learn! 

Check out a documentary film on incarceration and resettlement and a series of four films from 1975 featuring Issei voices.


Looking for your next great read?  Searching for the perfect gift?  The JASC Bookshop has titles suitable for children, young adults, and adults on a wide range of topics.  Find books about Japanese American history, books by Japanese American authors, books celebrating diversity, books about food and cooking, books about arts and culture, and more!

When you order any title through our shop, your purchase supports both JASC and local, independent bookstores.  You get the convenience of online shopping and shipping to your home, with the knowledge that your consumer dollars are making a difference.

Search for a title using the bar below, or visit the shop to browse our lists of carefully selected titles for readers of all ages!