Remembrance Project’s “Living Museum”

The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database offers an easy to use resource for exploring and examining more than 35,000 voyages made across the Atlantic Ocean from 1501 to 1866. An incredibly ambitious content matter to begin with, this database system was the result of several decades of a research by a vast amount of international scholars. The website took two years of development by a multi-disciplinary team including programmers, administrators, and historians to digitize this extensive database. The website offers a variety of resources including tables, timelines, and maps of estimated figures dealing with these numerous voyages made from various European and North American locations. Another resource it offers is an African Names Database where the user can actually search for a specific African victim. It is this resource that especially grabs my attention since it offers a more personal outlook of the millions of African slaves forced to make the agonizing voyage across the sea. Users can browse through 91,491 results of identified African names that also includes his or her corresponding age, height, gender, voyage ID, ship name, arrival date, and embarkation/disembarkation location. Being able to put at least a name to the vast amount of numerical figures offers a humanization of the data, giving each individual a small commemoration. The origin for the data of these African Names redirects to the African Origins page, which is another database site made in conjunction with the Slave Voyages database.

Over the weekend I visited the Japanese National Museum in Little Tokyo and viewed one of its ongoing exhibitions, “Common Ground: The Heart of Community”. The exhibition incorporates hundreds of artifacts that chronicles 130 years of Japanese American history, beginning with the early days of the Issei generation through the unconstitutional World War II incarceration and to the present. The end of the exhibit displays an original structure of a barrack saved and preserved from an actual concentration camp in Wyoming. In this barrack were two computers displaying a archival website called Remembrance Project, which is a recent initiative and phase one of the online project. The simple website was created in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Japanese American incarceration.

The website is easy to use and relies heavily on outside contributors and donors who are willing to submit tribute stories of incarcerated loved ones, but only in exchange for a donation to the museum. In this case, the database of this online endeavor remains open and is created solely by its potential donors. The website serves mainly as a skeleton of a database system that waits to be updated with tribute stories. Contributors are instructed to first donate and then submit a 4,00- character story or letter along with a picture of the victim(s) and their location details during the incarceration. The museum then reviews and processes these submitted stories before featuring them online, possibly to check for errors and accuracy.

In comparison to the Slave Voyages database, the Remembrance Project is a definite work in progress using a vastly simplified system for both data collecting and data presentation. However, I find that both projects share a similar objective to commemorate and document the vast numbers of information that were dealt with in both historical events. Although the Remembrance Project is just phase one of this online initiative, the endeavor could definitely use the Slaves Voyages website as a model system to emulate.

Manzanar Map

Remembrance Project Site