My name is Madeline Sumida. I recently graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, with a B.A. in History. While I did not study Asian American history in college, my Japanese American heritage sparked my interest in the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. This internship has exceeded my expectations of expanding my knowledge of Asian American history and present day issues. Now, I feel more connected to my roots and inspired to become more active in bringing attention to the experience of an often overlooked and misunderstood minority group.
One of my projects included searching for photographs to be used in an upcoming exhibition highlighting Asian American history. Through my research, I learned about diverse immigrant Asian ethnic groups at a level of detail that I never encountered in school. I also learned about the curatorial aspects of working at the National Museum of American History as I cataloged artifacts for upcoming exhibitions on Chinese take-out and Japanese American cowboys in Hawaii.
This internship also improved my research and analytical skills while I worked on my individual project. I explored the topic of Asians in the United States military, focusing my time frame of interest on World War II and the present day. Through analysis of historical context, newspaper and journal articles, demographic data from the Department of Defense and West Point, and interviews with individuals either in or closely associated with the military, I wrote a paper that provides a basis for future studies of Asian American soldiers. The Smithsonian provided the opportunity to go to the Nisei Congressional Gold Medal conference, where I was thrilled to meet veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. To see the medal in person meant a great deal to me because my grandfather and his brothers served in the Military Intelligence Service and the 442nd.
The excitement and variety of the Smithsonian internship transformed my personal and professional growth. The real-world experience of working in an office and interacting with such dedicated staffers whets my appetite for the next experience. I look forward, too, to seeing the exhibitions that we worked on!