Manzanar NHS Opens World War II-Era Mess Hall Exhibit

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

One of the exhibits inside the just-opened World War II-era mess hall at the Manzanar National Historic Site
(click to view larger image).
Photo: National Park Service
Visitors have an opportunity to explore a major part of camp life in a new exhibit in Manzanar’s World War II-era mess hall. Historic photos, articles, and quotes evoke the scale, complexity, and regimentation of life in Manzanar, where more than 10,000 people came together under duress, experiencing tremendous social and emotional upheaval.

36 mess halls served three meals a day for up to 300 people, 365 days a year. With a peak population of more than 10,000, the scale of operations required to feed Japanese Americans and camp staff matched that of a small city.

The mess hall is the first building completed as part of a “Demonstration Block,” called for in Manzanar National Historic Site’s General Management Plan. Inyo County donated the structure, built at Bishop Airfield in 1942, to the National Park Service (NPS) in 2002.

The 40’ x 100’ building was divided into four sections to be moved to Manzanar. Eventually, the NPS received funding to restore the building to its 1942 appearance and develop exhibits. Park staff worked with Krister Olmon, Harvest Moon Studio, and Color-Ad Exhibits and Signage to create the exhibit, with research support from Friends of Manzanar.

“As I walk through the mess hall, I find myself imagining that I’ve walked in right at the busiest moment of a meal, and that I’d better be careful not to bump into a cook or dish washer,” said Les Inafuku, Superintendent, Manzanar National Historic Site. “My great thanks go out to the former internees who provided us with the fine details about meals and the mess halls, plus the countless hours that our Manzanar staff and our creative and dedicated exhibit designers and fabricators devoted to research, develop concepts, and to produce the exhibits.”

In addition to the mess hall and two recently reconstructed barracks, the Manzanar’s Interpretive Center features extensive exhibits, audio-visual programs, and a bookstore. Winter hours of operation are 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM Pacific time. Manzanar is located at 5001 Highway 395, six miles south of Independence, California. Programs and exhibits are free and open to the public. For further information, please call (760) 878-2194 or visit our web site at


The following are additional photos from and about the mess hall exhibit:

A mess hall at Manzanar under construction, April 2, 1942.
Photo: Clem Albers/National Archives/War Relocation Authority
The same view as above, during restoration work, circa 2010.
Photo: National Park Service
Mess Hall kitchen exhibit
Photo: National Park Service
Mess Hall tables exhibit
Photo: National Park Service

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