Manzanar Update April, 2008

Editor’s Note: The following is the April 2008 update from Tom Leatherman, Superintendent of the Manzanar National Historic Site, regarding projects and recent developments affecting Manzanar.


Confinement Sites Legislation – The report to Congress has been submitted to the National Park Service Washington Office and is working its way up through the approval channels in the Department of the Interior. Once this report actually goes to Congress we will be preparing a third newsletter, which will largely be the information from the report. The grant program will begin once an appropriation is received. To stay informed about the process visit the web site.

Centennial Project – The project we submitted for funding was approved!!! Replanting historic vegetation at the historic west entrance to the auditorium made the final cut and was funded. This means we have to quickly begin implementation. We are working closely with the Friends of Manzanar who are raising half of the $15,000 needed to complete this project. Future updates will have more information on the progress of this project.

Oral History Project – We were fortunate to receive a significant amount of money this year, and will also for the next two years as well, for continuing our oral history collection efforts. This additional money will allow us to step-up the rate of collection and also collaborate more closely with Densho on the collection, transcription and posting of this critical piece of Manzanar (and Japanese American) history. If you know someone who is willing to participate in the Oral History or ID card program please contact Richard Potashin (760) 878- 2194 x2712.

Special Events – The Japanese American Museum of San Jose loaned us their collection of Poston cartoons by Jack Matsuoka which were on exhibit until mid-January. Starting in February, we had photo images/artwork by Michael Heivly which were produced on and inspired by the site. This was replaced in early April with the artwork from the Henry Fukuhara workshop, which will be on display until early May. We will continue to have rotating exhibits coming through the site. Please let us know if you hear of traveling exhibits that might be appropriate for Manzanar, and please come visit when new exhibits are on display.

Volunteering – We have some exciting volunteer projects coming up on-site this spring and summer. On May 3, we will be having our second annual Volunteer Day. We are encouraging local residents to come to the site and help us clear part of the historic road grid and clean up around the Judo dojo. The work project will occur from 8:30-12 followed by a catered lunch. Lunch is provided thanks to the Friends of Manzanar and will be followed by a docent program about Judo by Roy Murakami and a Junior Ranger activity.

From May 19th through 31st we will begin the archeological excavation of Merritt Park. The work can be dirty, but it is very satisfying to watch the gardens come to life as they are uncovered. If you are interested in volunteering for either or both activities, call to reserve your spot.

Volunteering at Manzanar happens both near and far, daily or on an occasion, and is available to volunteers of all ages. We regularly host volunteer service groups, send oral historys out for transcription, have docents provide programs and much more. If you have an interest or skill you would like to share with Manzanar, please consider volunteering with us. Please contact Carrie Andresen at (760) 878.2194 ext. 2714 or send her an e-mail.

Junior Ranger Program – The Junior Ranger program has expanded this year beyond the booklet to include Junior Ranger Day and Junior Ranger components surrounding Volunteer Day (set for May 3, 2008). We encourage Junior Rangers to get involved in their National Parks through a variety of methods, which may include service projects. Please let us know how you would like to be involved in Manzanar NHS or other National Parks.

Since the Pilgrimage in April 2007, we have had 582 people complete the Junior Ranger program. We are proud of all the children (and adults) who are now connected to Manzanar, the Owens Valley, the stories of Internment and the National Park Service. If you haven’t had a chance to bring your relatives and friends to participate in this program, please consider joining the millions of official Junior Rangers Ambassadors across the country.

Education Curriculum – Our Educator Resources box was finalized just in time for the Pilgrimage this year. This amazing box of resources includes: the award-winning documentary DVD Remembering Manzanar, electronic and printed teacher curriculum for 4th, 10th & 11th grade levels (keyed to California standards), four reprinted editions of the Manzanar Free Press, reprinted 1942 exclusion poster, individual booklets in electronic format reflecting personal experiences of 68 individuals, a DVD of Desert Diamonds Behind Barbed Wire Electronic Field Trip and related materials, and much more. We appreciate the Manzanar Committee’s past donations of “Reflections” two books, which are also included in the resource box. The staff at Manzanar, working in collaboration with educators and partners, created this package of educator resources for teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and other educators. We hope these materials challenge students to explore civil liberties and civil rights as they learn about the internment of Japanese Americans and other facets of Manzanar’s history. All of the lessons, ID cards and many other resources will become available at no cost on-line through our web site. The Educators Resources box was made possible by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. The box will sell for $29.95 with profits going to support the education program and producing future teacher boxes. Visit the Manzanar History Association bookstore to purchase a copy of the Educator Resources box or call (760) 878-2411.

Visitation – Overall, the visitation is about the same as last year, with a few fluctuations. Wildflowers in the valley, as well as some spring skiing at Mammoth, are helping to bring people to the area. We are optimistic that our continued effort to spread the word will increase the number of people who visit the site annually. We will continue to work with various groups to help get the word out about Manzanar.

Wayside Exhibits – We continue work on our wayside exhibit project. We have had some delay in getting the final text produced, but are underway with ordering the hardware for installation on the site. These outdoor exhibits will be placed in various locations to help people learn about the site features in the actual locations where they occurred. Alisa will continue to work with the Manzanar Committee and members of the Kunitomi/Embrey family on the cemetery exhibit about Sue and the Pilgrimages.

Orchard – We are continuing to move forward with preservation work on the orchards. The new watering system was shut down for the winter, and we will be bringing it back on-line soon. In January we were fortunate to have the arborist crew from the Olmstead Center for Landscape Preservation help with orchard stabilization efforts again on the site. This is the same crew that came last year and we are very pleased with the progress they were able to make in the orchards.

Mess Hall – The Historic Preservation crew from Rocky Mountain National Park came back in February and was able to complete a significant amount of work on the mess hall during their two-week stay. We are getting closer now and have another crew coming in mid-May who will likely be able to get it most of the way finished (at least on the outside). We will start planning in late spring for the exhibits which will go in the mess hall, so stay tuned for an opportunity to be involved in that process.

Gardens – The big news this year is the start of the Merritt Park excavation. Starting in mid-May we began the stabilization and restoration of Merritt Park which will be our largest excavation effort to date. We will have plenty of opportunities for volunteers, so please join us for this once in a lifetime chance to be involved in this monumental excavation. If you would like to volunteer please contact Gretel Enck at (760) 878-2194 x2713. We don’t know what we will find when we start digging, but if the other gardens are any measure we are bound to be awed and impressed. Over the course of the summer we will also be working on the continued stabilization of the existing gardens at Blocks 9 and 34.

YCC Program – Planning is well underway for our sixth year with a Youth Conservation Corps crew at Manzanar. This program, designed to give high school students work experience, is eight weeks long and exposes the youth to a variety of projects and issues on the site. Work this year will include projects in the gardens, historic orchards and assisting the Inyo National Forest and other National Park Service sites with their efforts. If you know of a teen in the area between the age of 15 and 18 years old who would like to work at Manzanar from June 16 through August 8 have them contact Ralph Bell at (760) 878-2194 x2706.

Reservoir – Manzanar archeologist Jeff Burton has been working closely with the local Bureau of Land Management archeologist to develop a plan for the repair of the damage at the reservoir. Jeff will begin repairs and stabilization of the damaged areas in July of this year.

Recycling Facility – We continue working with the Fort Independence Tribe to implement a recycling program that will serve the NPS sites in the area (Death Valley, Manzanar and Devils Postpile) as well as the Tribe. The equipment, purchased with special NPS funds, has arrived and is being installed. We hope the facility is in operation by early summer, and the bins for collecting the recyclables are already on-site.

* * *

As always, there are a number of programs and projects underway at Manzanar. Thanks for everyone for their continued support for the projects and programs at Manzanar, we could not do it without your help. We look forward to our continued collaboration to preserve the site and its stories. If you have any questions or comments please give me a call at (760) 878-2194 x 2701.


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