Curating History — A dialogue with Japanese Visitors through Department of State

On September 4, 2015, three visitors from Japan came to visit GWCI through an international visitor leadership program organized by the Department of State of the United States. The three visitor are the following: Mr. Makoto Arakaki, Chief, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, Mr. Nobuyoshi Maehira, Chief, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum, and Mr. Hiroshi Nakano, Exhibition Planner, Omuta Coal Industry and Science Museum. The purpose of this visit is to have a dialogue with GW faculty, students, and administrators to find out how history is portrayed, interpreted, and taught in the United States. The George Washington Confucius Institute hosted this visit and organized a group for discussion. Professor Edward McCord and professor Adam Howard from Department of History conveyed to the group that their job is to engage students to look at facts and to encourage students to have their own critical thinking. There are also three GW history major students who participated in the discussions, a Chinese, a Japanese, and an American. They talked about their interpretations of history through class learning and public museums. One challenge that almost everyone believes the museums are facing, regardless which country they are located, is to balance representing history and culture accurately and fairly while to be subject to government's funding and terms. The delegation also had a tour at the newly renovated the George Washington Confucius Institute and was impressed by the effort the GW takes to promote cross cultural dialogue and exchange.


American Representatives

Frances Taoran Sun, Executive Director of Global Initiatives, Columbian College of Arts & Sciences, Managing Director, GW Confucius Institute
Ed McCord, Interim Dean, Elliott School of International Affairs, and Professor of History and International Affairs
Haruka Akashi, Ph.D. Student, History
Benjamin Young, Ph.D. Student, History
Zhaoying Li, Undergraduate Student, History
Adam Howard, Adjunct Assistant Professor of History and International Affairs



Japanese Representatives

Mr. Makoto ARAKAKI
Chief, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum
Mr. Arakaki is an authority on social studies and war history. A member of local education and museum organizations, his books are used as teacher manuals in Japanese social studies and history curriculum. His 2014 visit to the U.S. led to a special exhibit entitled “War and Okinawa as seen by Okinawan immigrants in Hawaii,” which was held at the Pacific Aviation Museum in Pearl Harbor. Mr. Arakaki is eager to deepen his knowledge as a curator and educator through better understanding museum curation in the U.S.
Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum displays a range of war experiences highlighting the Battle of Okinawa during World War II and is visited by nearly half a million visitors annually. Nearly a quarter of the population died in this land battle either in defense of the city or in controversial mass suicides. The museum features a number of victim narratives.

Mr. Nobuyoshi MAEHIRA
Chief, Okinawa Prefectural Peace Memorial Museum
Mr. Maehira works within the museum and with high school students to broaden knowledge and perspectives regarding Japanese history. He currently leads “Convey the Heart of Peace,” a museum program featuring footage of testimonies from survivors of the Okinawa battle during World War II. Additionally, Mr. Maehira is responsible for the museum’s exchange program with the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and the National Museum of Cambodia. Through this program he offers training and tours for Cambodian visitors. Mr. Maehria is especially interested in studying how culture, race, religion, education and national defense is shaping U.S. relations with Japan.

Mr. Hiroshi NAKANO
Exhibition Planner, Omuta Coal Industry and Science Museum
President, Omuta & Adaro Coal Mine Town Fan Club

As president of the Omuta & Adaro Coal Mine Town Fan Club, Mr. Nakano plays a role in curating materials in the Omuta Coal Science and Industry Museum. Omuta Coal Science and Industry Museum showcases several mines that were active from the Meiji Industrialization to the 1990s. The Fan Club often faces pressure to remove some of the more negative historical aspects including reminders of migrant and forced labor in the mines during Japan’s colonial era and the Pacific War.