National Agricultural Day Press Conference, March 19, 2013
Submitted by Goldman Sachs Mulitcultural Junior Fellow Chrissy Lau, doctoral student of History at University of California-Santa Barbara.
On National Agriculture Day, I participated in my first press conference for the National Museum of American History. As a part of showcasing the upcoming exhibition on “American Enterprise,” the press conference unveiled some intriguing historical artifacts, including the work of Hawaiian paniolo (Pacific Island cowboy) Masa Kawamoto. In order to prepare for the press conference, on the day before, I helped to accession his items and gather them on to a cart to be brought down for display the next morning.
Kawamoto grew up on his family ranch in Hawai’i and began working on the ranch after finishing 10th grade. He handmade all of his own gear, including the horse saddle, the rope, and an iron branding tool. As I carefully accessioned the tiny numbers onto the saddle, I could see all the little intricate details he had put into designing the saddle, including the small flowers lining the saddle seat placed by iron stamps. As I learned, the paniolo’s saddle is unique because the frame and saddle horn are made of wood. It was really beautiful and well-kept. And as I accessioned the cattle rope, the smell of the rope brought me back to his ranch in Hawai’i.
On the morning of the press conference, we placed Kawamoto’s objects for display right next to the organic farming items in the Presidential Suite. As the seats filled up, Peter Liebold, Chair of Work & Industry, introduced the upcoming exhibit and spoke about each of the objects. He also unveiled a new website where the public can upload their stories of agriculture and be a part of the American agricultural story. This website is a great way to access diverse stories of agriculture from histories of slavery to undocumented workers to seasonal laborers to family farms. All are invited to submit and document their histories here: http://americanhistory.si.edu/agheritage