Let me share a great success story with you. Thanks to the commitment, perseverance, and hard work of the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA) Archives and Historical Preservation Committee (the Archives Committee), we’ve made a great leap forward.
The Archives Committee is comprised of Lynne Ozawa (chair), and members, Rev. Fumiaki Usuki, Rev. Kazuaki Nakata, Eiko Masuyama, Sandy Saeki, Dona Mitoma, Mitsuyo Tanaka and Jamie Henricks of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). Aside from dedicated contributions of all committee members, Lynne Ozawa, Eiko Masuyama and Sandy Saeki deserve special recognition for their extraordinary efforts.
The committee’s purpose is to encourage the collection of records related to the BCA for the permanent preservation of their enduring cultural, historical and evidentiary value to the entire Japanese American community and the general public. The committee is dedicated to establishing an understanding, and appreciation of our Collection’s historic materials to ensure proper management, and preservation for reference, research, enrichment, and for the continued propagation of Jodo Shinshu in America.
The collection consists of 330-plus feet and is considered to be substantial by archival standards. In 1999, BCA deposited the collection with JANM. Little more than one year ago, JANM informed BCA that the annual cost to continue Collection maintenance would increase by more than 60 percent from $30,000 to $49,500 because of rising costs and other factors. This additional expense was unmanageable for BCA.
The Archives Committee met more than 14 times in just over a year to explore alternative institutions to which the collection could be safely transferred and properly maintained before the BCA’s contract expired with JANM.
The Archives Committee determined the three best sites for potential relocation were the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA); University of Southern California; and Stanford University’s Hoover Institution Library and Archives.
The committee made visits to each site, some several times. Discussions were held with knowledgeable former BCA leaders. One sunny afternoon, I met with Dr. Ryo Munekata, past BCA president (1970) and a great BCA treasure himself, regarding the wisdom of mov- ing the collection.
Dr. Munekata was fully supportive of the move. Regrettably, shortly after my meeting with him, he passed on to the Pure Land without witnessing the conclusion of this exciting saga.
Expert archivists at all of the institutions the committee considered as new homes for the BCA Collection made us aware that our collection has enormous historical value as an enduring record of the Japanese experience in the United States during the 20th century, and through today.
Ultimately, UCLA was unanimously recommended as the new home for our BCA Collection. Committee member Dona Mitoma, a recently retired college head librarian, advised that UCLA is at the forefront of preservation and archival programs, and already well-established in Buddhist and Japanese-American studies.
The archival storage facilities at UCLA are considered cutting edge, including a fire-suppression system which suppresses fires by eliminating oxygen, thus avoiding permanent water damage to the materials. Most significantly, UCLA’s policy and mission are to permanently and expertly house and preserve all collections it receives, and to make them freely available to scholars and the public, in perpetuity.
The 2018 National Council voted unanimously to approve moving the collection to UCLA. I am so pleased to tell you that it now resides at UCLA’s archival depository.
UCLA will not to charge BCA anything to transport, insure or maintain the collection. It will soon be accepting new contributions of materials from our temples and churches, as it will continue to remain a living collection. BCA will let everyone know when we can resume the delivery of additional materials to UCLA and how best to do that.
The accomplishment of this gargantuan task was due to the efforts of the Archives Committee which demonstrated what dedication and commitment to our shared values can bring. I wish to express my deep gratitude on behalf of BCA to this dedicated group of Shin Buddhists.
More information on the BCA collection can be found here: