Public Archeology Project At Manzanar National Historic Site July 2-6, 2015

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

Block 14, Building 1—Snow fell at Manzanar at November 22, 2013, giving a yet-unrestored barracks at Manzanar National Historic Site a light dusting.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Patricia Biggs/National Park Service

INDEPENDENCE, CA — The public is invited to join National Park Service staff in historic preservation work at Manzanar July 2 to 6, 2015. Work will focus on Block 14, the Historic Site’s “demonstration block,” where visitors can better see and experience what a typical residential block at Manzanar was like.

To date, Block 14 features two reconstructed barracks and a mess hall. The Japanese Americans imprisoned at Manzanar did all of the jobs needed to keep a small “city” like Manzanar functioning, but during their free time, they took care of their families, tended Victory gardens, built Japanese gardens, attended church services, took classes, and played sports. Our July project will explore two of the ways people passed leisure time at Manzanar, playing basketball and playing cards.

Under the direction of archeologists Jeff Burton, Laura Ng, and Paul Hoornbeek, along with preservation specialist Dave Goto, volunteers will excavate two barracks basements and clear and rebuild a basketball court. An oral history provides some details about one of the basements–a former internee built it when he was a teenager at Manzanar, to escape the heat. There, he used to play pinochle with his friends. From historic photographs, we know the basketball court surface was only dirt; we will regrade it to the original level, using soil changes, compaction, and perhaps remnant artifacts as our guide. We will also install posts and backboards, build a backstop fence, rebuild a retaining wall, and restore rock alignments in their historic locations. All of the restoration work will be guided by archeological evidence and historic photographs.

Volunteers will be using shovels and small hand tools, screening sediments to retrieve artifacts, taking notes and photographs, using wheelbarrows, mixing concrete for small repairs, resetting rocks to reconstruct landscape features, and cutting and loading brush. We will be painting the basketball backboards and possibly a few rocks encircling a fire hydrant. Depending on the number of artifacts recovered, we may also spend a day or two cleaning and recording artifacts.

For the five-day project, we will be able to accommodate up to twenty volunteers a day. Volunteers must be at least 15 years old, and be able to work outdoors. Most of the work is physically demanding, but there are usually a variety of tasks each day, to suit different interests and energy levels. Previous experience is helpful, but all that is needed is an interest in history and a willingness to get dirty.

Volunteers must sign up in advance and may work any number of days or hours, but a full day or multiple days are preferred. Work will be conducted regardless of weather, so please come prepared, bring water, lunch, sunscreen, a hat, and work gloves. We have never had anyone stung by bees, but if you are allergic, bring your EpiPen®. We will meet each day at 7:30 AM on the north side of the visitor center and work until 3:30 PM.

To sign up, send e-mail to:

Manzanar National Historic Site is located at 5001 Highway 395, six miles south of Independence, California (see map below). For more information, visit our web site at or call (760) 878-2194.


Manzanar National Historic Site


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