“Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit” returns to the California Museum Aug. 5

Press release

30 new images & family artifacts reveal new insight into photojournalist Paul Kitagaki Jr.’s work & the resilience of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Aug. 2, 2021: Today, the California Museum announced an encore presentation of “Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit” opens at 10 a.m. on Thur., Aug. 5, and continues through 5 p.m. on Sun., Nov. 7, 2021. First presented in 2015, the traveling exhibition features contemporary images taken by photojournalist Paul Kitagaki, Jr. echoing historic images by U.S. War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographers who documented the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. Updated and expanded for 2021, “Gambatte” returns with 30 new photographs, audio interviews with some of the subjects and a behind-the-scenes video, highlighting the resilience of Japanese Americans who persevered over their mass incarceration during WWII. Additionally, the first-ever public display of artifacts from Kitagaki’s family’s incarceration at the Topaz War Relocation Center provides new insights into his personal connections to his work exploring the Japanese concept of “gambatte” (to triumph over adversity).

“The California Museum is excited to present this second installation of ‘Gambatte,’” said Executive Director Amanda Meeker. “Since its debut in 2015, the exhibition has expanded, with new images and content. We’re also thrilled to add personal family artifacts that provide a deeper understanding of Paul’s work and serve as a testament to Japanese Americans’ resilience when faced with unimaginable hardships.”

In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, paving the way for the imprisonment of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. Responsible for the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, the WRA employed noted photographers of the era, such as Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) and Ansel Adams (1902-1984), to document their treatment. The resulting 17,000+ images now are held by the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  

In the late 1970s, Kitagaki learned Lange photographed his family in 1942 while waiting to board a bus to a detention center. The discovery launched his decades-long mission to identify, find and photograph as many of the anonymous Japanese Americans recorded in WRA images as he could.

“As I examined Lange’s work, I realized each photograph contained the untold story of a family like mine,” said Kitagaki. “The images inspired me to discover how mass incarceration changed the lives of Japanese Americans and to capture their legacy of perseverance and resilience after unjustly losing their homes, businesses, and sometimes, families.”

Since then, Kitagaki has shot more than 60 images of Japanese Americans documented by the WRA and their direct descendants. Taken with cameras similar to those used by photographers of the 1940s, his portraits illuminate a dark chapter of American history while capturing the strength and resilience of generations of Japanese Americans.

For more information on Paul Kitagaki, Jr., go to kitagakiphoto.com. For details on “Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit” at the California Museum or to access media assets, visit californiamuseum.org/press-kits/gambatte.


Interviews available by request. Visit media inquiries page for details.


“Uprooted! Japanese Americans During World War II”

Featuring members of Sacramento’s Japanese American community, this signature exhibition presents personal stories of immigration, incarceration during WWII and the successful fight for redress for the loss of constitutional rights in the 1980s. Artifacts on display include photographs, art, ephemera, crafts and more from the Japanese American Archival Collection at California State University Sacramento. Learn more at californiamuseum.org/uprooted.


Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day
Sat., Sept. 18, 2021 | 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

Free admission with advance registration during Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day at the California Museum, plus complimentary #ExperienceAmerica activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Highlights include self-guided tours of “Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit,” docent-led tours of “Uprooted! Japanese Americans During WWII,” origami crane crafts and a scavenger hunt exploring California immigration for ages five and up. For details or to register starting Wed., Aug. 18, 2021, visit californiamuseum.org/smd-2021



The California Museum celebrates the Golden State’s history, arts, diversity and unique influence on the world. Established in 1998, the Museum is home to the California Hall of Fame, Unity Center and many more exhibitions inspiring visitors to make their mark on history. Located at 10th and O Streets one block from the State Capitol, galleries are currently open Thursday through from Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed Monday-Wednesday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). General admission is $7-10. Learn more or get tickets at californiamuseum.org. Follow us on Facebook @CaliforniaMuseum and on Instagram and Twitter @TheCAMuseum.