Sunday, December 27

Riverside Municipal Museum

A couple of days before Christmas my family met in downtown Riverside at the Mission Inn for dinner. We arrived a little early so we stopped in at the Riverside Municipal Museum to explore. Like many American Museums, it's fairly obvious that the museum is underfunded and run mostly by volunteers. The exhibits are very well done though and the collection has some interesting history of the area. A large section of the museum is devoted to natural history; featuring a wide variety of taxidermy and samples in formaldehyde.
There is also a mock cabin built into the facility, complete with landscape scene from the window and notes taken by naturalists.

The history of citrus industry in Riverside also has a large exhibit.

The rotating exhibit space currently has a display called "Reading the Walls" about a Japanese American family living in Riverside during World War II, the Herada family. This is an excerpt from the exhibit brochure about the family:
Under the stewardship of the Riverside Metropolitan Museum, the National Historic Landmark Harada House is among the most significant and powerful civil rights landmarks in California. This site and the story of the Harada family embody local, state, national, and international issues of civil and individual rights, democracy, immigration, assimilation, and citizenship.

Reading the Walls: The Struggle of the Haradas, a Japanese American Family tells the nearly 100 year history of one immigrant Japanese family and their quest for the American Dream. That dream was partly fulfilled when their ownership of the home, bought by family patriarch Jukichi Harada in the names of his American-born children, was contested in court in the landmark State of California vs. Jukichi Harada, et al. The Riverside County Superior Court upheld the children’s ownership under the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution, essentially proclaiming that as natural-born citizens of America they had every right to own property.

Until 1941, the Haradas prospered, operating a series of restaurants and boarding houses in Riverside. Jukichi Harada and his wife Ken watched proudly as their seven children grew and worked and went to school and began families of their own. The realization of their dream was shattered in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the advent of World War II. With the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt, 120,000 Japanese Americans were dispossessed of property and stripped of their civil rights.

Their story is a California story and a truly American story. It is a saga of hardship and struggle to achieve the American promise of freedom, citizenship, and a better life.

1 comment:

Pallas said...

I saw the exhibit about the Harada family last Spring. I was moved by the experience, and have since researched the subject about Japanese internment. I highly recommend visiting the museum's exhibit to everyone.