With one of JANM’s core missions to safeguard the histories of the first generation Japanese immigrants, called Issei, the museum assembled a vast collection of oral histories, photographs, written letters and other records, and various other artifacts and materials that documented the lives of Japanese who arrived in America shortly before, during, and after World War II, and along with those who were interned. Though the museum focuses on the Japanese-American experience, it mirrors the immigration process traveled by many other immigrant communities.
The museum contains over 130 years of Japanese American history, dating back to the first Issei generation. The museum houses a moving image archive containing more than 100,000 feet (30,000 m) of 16 mm and 8 mm home movies of Japanese Americans from the 1920s to the 1950s. Two of JANM’s current exhibitions are “Hello! Exploring the Supercute World of Hello Kitty” and “Common Ground: The Heart of Community.”