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The main pavilion of the Japanese American National Museum is slated for renovation

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    The Japanese American National Museum (JANM) announced this week the public phase of a $65-million fundraising campaign, setting the stage for future plans that includes a renovation of the museum's galleries and core exhibition.

    National Center for the Preservation of Democracy on the campus of the Japanese American National Museum.Paloma Dooley

    The campaign, which has raised $48 million to date, includes $20 million to redesign and repurpose JANM's main campus, with the goal of providing a more cohesive experience for visitors. Work is set to begin in January 2025.

    “JANM’s founders promised that the Museum would stand as a beacon of civil rights to ensure that what happened to Japanese Americans in 1942 would never happen to any other group,” said JANM presidents and chief executive officer Ann Burroughs. “Therefore, JANM is embarking on the largest campaign in its history to secure its future and transform its physical and digital presence, exhibitions, and programming.”

    The Japanese American National Museum’s Historic Building, the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.Paloma Dooley

    The redesign of JANM's main campus will require a temporary closure, starting on December 31, 2024. During that time, JANM's exhibitions will be put on tour around the country, although the museum's Historic Building and National Center for the Preservation of Democracy will remain open for programming on the opposite side of the plaza at 100 N. Central Avenue.

    The main pavilion, poised to reopen in late 2026, will be centered on a new core exhibition: In the Future We Call Now: Realities of Racism, Dreams of Democracy. Looking back from the 1800s to present, the exhibition will help visitors to understand the past, present, and future experience of immigrants. The new exhibition, which will span more than 10,000 square feet on JANM's first floor, is being supported with funding from the State of California via the California State Library.

    Concept rendering of the Heart Mountain barrack within JANM’s new core exhibition.Ralph Appelbaum Associates

    The entrance to the new galleries will come through Aratani Central Hall, which is to be converted into a new lobby. Likewise, plans call for reconfiguring JANM's second floor galleries to create 6,300 square feet of contiguous space, as well as associated upgrades to building systems to preserve the museum's collections.

    The fundraising campaign, dubbed Our Promise, will also provide:

    • $7.5 million for the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy's programming in civic engagement;
    • $17.5 million for the museum to incorporate smart technology to share its resources across the country; and
    • $20 million for JANM's endowment.

    Concept rendering of JANM’s new core exhibition.Ralph Appelbaum Associates

    “A successful Comprehensive Campaign will sustain JANM’s future for generations to come, enabling us to honor and amplify the great promise and vision of our founders," said JANM Board of Trustees member and campaign chair Wendy Shiba. That is why my husband Larry (Pittman) and I made an early commitment to the Campaign and encourage everyone who embraces our mission and values to join us.

    More information will be made available at the following briefings:

    Wednesday, August 30, 2023

    4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

    Tateuchi Democracy Forum


    Friday, September 22, 2023

    12 p.m. – 2 p.m.

    Virtual (Zoom link to be emailed)


    Thursday, October 19, 2023

    3 p.m. – 5 p.m.

    Tateuchi Democracy Forum


    Since 2018, JANM has raised 74 percent of the campaign goal. Its funding to date comes from MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, The Ford Foundation, he Perenchio Foundation, the Aratani Foundation, LA Arts Recovery Found, the Ahmanson Foundation, MUFG Bank, Toyota Motor Sales, and Sony Corp.

    To learn more, visit  janm.org/OurPromise.

    The upcoming changes to JANM emerge as the surrounding blocks of Little Tokyo undergo a more visible transformation. Across the street, a new subway station opened in June as part of Metro's Regional Connector, while Little Tokyo Service Center and Go For Broke are planning a new education center and affordable housing complex on what is now a parking lot to the north of the museum.

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