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Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

This land is your land, this land is “From Our Land”

The UC Davis Design Museum is proud to present this winter’s exhibit entitled “From Our Land”, an interpretative traveling exhibition. The Japanese history of agriculture in this country from the 19th century to the present can be seen in Walker Hall from Jan. 11 to Mar. 7 every day from noon to 4 p.m. or noon to 2 p.m. on Sundays, free of charge.

This exhibit follows in line with the Design Museum’s theme this year, Asian roots in design. “From Our Land” specifically showcases several different kinds of Japanese farming expressions and history. The exhibit’s creators researched and dug for hidden treasures buried within our present culture.

They discovered riches that proved to provide an entire exhibit of work. Some of the most prized pieces in “From Our land” are photographs, donated by families from that time period.

Another fascinating aspect of the show is the interviews that the researchers conducted with families that donated or loaned their family heirlooms. The creators used extensive resources to procure authentic farming tools used in the 19th century by the Nikkei families during this time as well.

The Nikkei were a group of Japanese farmers that migrated to this country in the late 18th century and worked on farms. The showcase is a testament to their struggle to establish themselves in the United States, and carries on past the internment period during World War II.

Adele Zhang, the curator of the Design Museum said “these are stories of Japanese Nikkei and their agricultural experience and political struggles in California from the 1800s to the present.”

The Design Museum has been planning this event for over a year. It was through a mutual effort that “From Our Land” came to UC Davis, because the team wanted to introduce a more cultural aspect into the museum.

Although Zhang is the curator at the Museum, this exhibition has been brought to UC Davis through a guest curator, Yuki Nishinaka, who is also a guest lecturer currently teaching on campus.

Nishinaka originally worked on the exhibition at its previous location at the National Japanese American Historical Society Gallery in San Francisco and was funded by the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. After working with the NJAHS and the Design Museum here at Davis, she was able to schedule a tour at our museum.

However, “Communication was our biggest challenge with this particular exhibit. It was difficult to coordinate scheduling and time conflicts arose,” Zhang said.

Despite this, Nishinaka worked hard to collect enough books about this subject to add two tables worth of material to the display. This special addition can only be seen here at Davis, since it is not part of the original showcase.

Even though the museum admires and respects all their exhibits, this particular one holds a special place in the hearts of those working at the Design Museum. “It provides a stage for students to work,” Zhang said.

It is true – the museum and this exhibit offer several opportunities for Design interns to create labels, install the objects and organize the space.

The exhibit arrived by crate on Jan. 5, giving these crafty interns, Nashinaka and the museum team just enough time to set everything up for the opening.

Perhaps the most important aspect of this exhibit is that “From Our Land” especially inculcates one of the museums most emphasized missions: “to further our understanding of design and the contributions design makes to shaping our experiences, environment and culture.”

As Zhang puts it, “This is not a show for design objects, it is a show for understanding cultures.”

BRITTANY PEARLMAN can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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