Manzanar National Historic Site Unveils Virtual Museum

The following is a press release from the National Park Service.


Screenshot of Manzanar Virtual Museum home page.
Photo: Manzanar National Historic Site/National Park Service

MANZANAR NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE, NEAR INDEPENDENCE, CA — In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage month, the National Park Service (NPS) has launched a “Virtual Museum” highlighting more than 200 items from Manzanar National Historic Site’s museum collection.

“This is the 41st Virtual Museum that the National Park Service has created, and we’re honored to be launching it close to the 41st Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage,” said Manzanar National Historic Site Superintendent Les Inafuku. “From any Internet-connected computer, anytime, any person can explore artifacts, photos, archives, and videos to discover the many stories of Manzanar.”

The Virtual Museum showcases items highlighting Manzanar’s past from centuries of Owens Valley Paiute life to the ranching and farming era; from the World War II confinement of 11,070 Japanese Americans, to later Pilgrimages and the eventual establishment of Manzanar National Historic Site. Most of the items featured online have never been seen by the public.

In addition to artifacts, artwork, documents, photos, and more, the Virtual Museum includes a virtual tour, oral history interview clips, photo slide shows, and “Teaching With Museum Collections” lesson plans.

Park staff collaborated with museum professionals from the NPS Museum Management Program based in Washington, DC and with museum staff from Death Valley National Park and the NPS Western Archeological Conservation Center, in Tucson, Arizona. The project was made possible through the generosity of former internees, camp staff, local residents, their families, and others who have donated items to Manzanar.

Manzanar’s Virtual Museum can be found at: Virtual Museum Exhibit: Manzanar National Historic Site.

To explore the National Park Service’s other Virtual Museums, visit http://www.nps.gov/history/museum.

Manzanar’s “real museum” is located in the restored camp auditorium at Manzanar. The site is located along U.S. Highway 395, six miles south of Independence, California and nine miles north of Lone Pine. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.nps.gov/manz or call (760) 878-2194.

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2 Responses to Manzanar National Historic Site Unveils Virtual Museum

  1. Mike Rose says:

    Hello,

    I am in Utah and have been doing some research on the Topaz Relocation Center. I have been down to the nearby town of Delta and have met with personnel at the local museum. They have a small part of the museum dedicated to the camp.

    I have been curious about several things that they could not answer. I thought you people with a pulse on all things Manzanar might be able to help me. Initially, since Topaz covered thirty-one square miles, much of the land was developed by the Japanese internees as farm land. They also raised turkeys, chickens, hogs, and cattle. I think the normal assumption was that the bounty from these fields would be used to feed the upwards of 11,000 who passed through the camp.
    But in interviews with some of those internees, they all said that they got the lowest cuts of meat and certainly the lesser ends of the products produced. My question is just this, what happened to the best that was produced at Topaz? I would suggest that this conditioned existed at other camps also.

    I am thinking that since the camps were under the authority of the United States Army, they became the benefactors of the bounty produced at the camps. Can you confirm this assumption and give me some clue as to what happened? Tons of choice food products seem to have mysteriously disappeared.

    I was also curious as to the situation with money. I have been told that bank accounts of those relocated were frozen by the government. The internees destined for the camps arrived penny less unless they were allowed to bring some cash with them. Perhaps they were…you can answer that one for me also. Therefore I must conclude while many small business operation like movie theaters, barber shops, etc. were created, there were no banks. So what happened to the money the internees were paid; twelve dollars a month for laborers and sixteen to nineteen for professionals like doctors? Were they paid in cash…where did they keep it? I was told by one internee that the people often used there money to buy postage stamps, as well as clothes, bedding, and household goods through the Sears catalog.

    Thanks in advance for helping me explore a most painful time in our country’s history.

    • Gann Matsuda says:

      Some of the camps grew vegetables and had chicken and hog farms. I don’t know about Topaz, but at Manzanar, the chicken ranch began supplementing the incarceree’s diet, if I recall correctly, in 1944. I don’t remember when the hog farm went online, but I’m sure you can find that information. The Manzanar National Historic Site’s web site may have the information.

      I know the Heart Mountain camp grew vegetables, and the bounty was large enough that they supplied vegetables to at least some of the other camps.

      Keep in mind that some camp staff and administrators were corrupt. A significant portion of the meats and crops were sold on the black market.

      If I recall, the camps also had banks, or existing banks had a “branch” at the camps where money they earned while in camp was deposited. I’m sure not all incarcerees trusted those banks. I’m sure you can find this information on the web as well.

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