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Fall 1998
Shame of a Nation
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"If you go into a project like this and think of it only in terms of pages in a book or scenes from a film, you are missing all of the power of this new medium. At the same time, there are no written standards for how to use it in the best way, so it was a real challenge to create something that was visually strong, content-driven and accessible - without making it so slick that the look overshadowed the content."

In fact, there are few bells and whistles; the most innovative feature is probably a note-taking utility that allows users to write down their thoughts and reflections and incorporate them into the content of the CD-ROM. "The note-taking utility was difficult to create, but we felt it was very important to include," explains Ricci. "It gives the ability to open a dialogue, to create a living archive."

A major issue was how to deal with the documentary film footage. The Hearst newsreels are pointedly propagandistic and in favor of the incarceration. In terms of continuity, they are polished, produced with dramatic music and bombastic narration. In stark contrast, the amateur films are rough, uneven, without narration, offering mute, often poignant, images of life as it occurred.

"We have two sets of film - where is the truth?" Ricci asks. "The amateur footage provides actual witness to the tragedy, but the newsreels are polished and slick. They have a completely opposite point of view and played a huge role in the formation of public opinion at that time. So how do we show them in relation to one another? How do we validate them, or do we let them speak for themselves as historical documents? Do we add a warning label that says this footage represents a specific point of view and is propaganda?"

The latter approach was anathema to Ricci. "I abhor the propaganda of the newsreels, but I would be loath to go in there and start futzing around with the content."

To deal with the issue, Ricci decided to project the video footage against a backdrop of still images, faces of Japanese Americans inside the camps. "These photographs are a reminder of the reality," Ricci says. "We put the film within the context of the people who lived the experience."

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