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UCLA Library Special Collections Buddhist Churches of America

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– My name is Rick Stambul, and yes, I’ve been a member of the
Buddhist Churches of America through my affiliation with the West Los Angeles Buddhist
Temple, since the 1980s. I now serve as the National President of the Buddhist Churches of America. We consist of over sixty
temples and churches throughout the United States. I was active in the Civil
Rights Movement in the 1960s, and after that, as a young attorney, interviewed scores of Japanese-Americans, who had been incarcerated
in Internment Camps during World War II, not withstanding the fact
they were American citizens. That touched me deeply, and it was that, that attracted me to learning
more about Shin Buddhism, and eventually becoming a member of the Buddhist Churches of America, to promote the importance
of the BCA archives in the United States as
an historical record, religiously and of the
immigrant experience, of the Japanese-Americans
in the United States. It was about 1988 that BCA
entered into a partnership with the Japanese-American
National Museum, JANM, in Los Angeles. It was there that we put
our archival collection, which at the time, consisted
of over 350 linear feet of documents and photographs, and other kinds of information. However, JANM is a relatively
small, private museum, and because our archive collection is, we are told, the largest collection of Japanese-American history
in the United States, we were searching for a repository, and a place to digitize and
display our archive collection, both to scholars, for research, as well as to members
of the general public. And it was the mission statement of the UCLA archives and Library, that caught our attention,
to maintain, in perpetuity, archive collections for
use at no charge, for free, to scholars and researchers, academics, as well as to members of
the general American public. And it was for that and other reasons, that we determined as a
national organization, to move our entire archive collection, to UCLA, where it now resides. – Well, I think one thing
we’re trying to do with this large archive of Buddhism in Los Angeles, of which this new acquisition
will be an important part, we’re trying to give
people at UCLA and beyond, really an opportunity to
explore the original materials, original sources for telling the history of Buddhism in this region. And the Buddhist Churches
of America in particular, is one of the very
earliest forms of Buddhism to make its way into the United States, and the West generally, and especially into
the Los Angeles region. So, if we’re going to tell the history of Buddhism in Los Angeles, we really have to start
by telling the history of the Buddhist Churches
of America in Los Angeles. – As a graduate student and researcher, one of the problems that
I think I’ve run into, on more than one occasion is, this issue of accessibility
with research materials. I’ve visited a number
of universities here, in the Southern California area, and around the United States,
and, of course, abroad in places like Tokyo and Kyoto, and inevitably, you run into issues where you are barred
from access or storage becomes an issue, in
accessing the materials. And I think the idea of
having the BCA collection here at UCLA, in its sort
of open accessibility to not only students,
graduate and undergraduate, and faculty here at the university, but also the greater-Los
Angeles community, is going to be one of those
distinguishing factors between this collection here and other collections
at other universities. It will be incredibly easy for students and the greater community to come in and for free, access materials like this for independent research,
projects and scholarship, and I think that’s one of
the things that is different about this collection at UCLA. – When we think about archives, I think what’s really
important to remember is that, we often see this as sort of ephemera. These will be flyers and handouts, and minutes of meetings,
financial documents, pictures. When you put all these together, especially when you
collected all these materials as the Buddhist Churches of America has been doing for so many decades now, these individual ephemera together, become this massive,
original source material, for helping us understand
how Buddhism was able to be introduced into a new cultural
region, like the Americas, and then how that tradition adapted to the interest and predilections and the, quite unique cultural
context of California. – BCA is excited, and looking forward to collaborating with UCLA. This is a piece of history that we think touches on many
different disciplines, both religious and theological, as well as sociological, psychological and all of the attributes of people in the hundreds of thousands, who have been members of the
Buddhist Churches of America, to maintain that collection
and that information for future generations. (peaceful music)

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