My name is Dylan Siegel, the creator of this project. This project was researched and created from roughly October 2021 to March 2022. The project grew naturally out of my reading of oral histories from first and second-generation Japanese who lived and grew up in Orange County. As I read more oral histories, I realized how much information about each individual, their lives, and their communities was stored in those documents—both recordings and texts. So, I considered ways that I could re-represent the information that I was reading and share it widely. I landed on maps as one of the primary storytelling tools.
The project’s scope also became wider than I had initially intended. After completing an MA in East Asian Studies, focused on modern Japanese History, I returned to my hometown in Irvine, CA, searching for something to contribute my time towards. One day in August 2021, while visiting Crystal Cove State Beach, I learned of Cottage #34, which was previously a Japanese Language School and community building for the Japanese community along the coastline. This sparked my interest in not only the Japanese experience in Irvine, but also led me to question why I had learned next to nothing of local history during my K-12 education in Irvine. Inspired by Public Humanities and the wave of community history reckonings that has been sweeping the U.S. for two years now, I began to interrogate where the past of Irvine, a planned community, exists. Irvine’s aesthetics, in part, have contributed to the papering over of a tangible past in the city, which I believe this project may take a step towards counteracting. You can read a longer critique of how the past is hidden in Irvine on my personal website. While reading the oral histories, I realized that most of the narrations were not limited to Irvine, but were all around Orange County, so I expanded the scope of the project.
If you have any comments about the website, its contents, or how it is presented, please contact me at dzsiegel AT gmail DOT com.