Manzanar NHS At 25 Years Old: More Relevant Now Than Ever Before

The following is an expanded version of a story that will appear in the printed program for the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, April 29, 2017.

The east side of the Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

LOS ANGELES — A little over 25 years ago, after decades of hard work, Japanese American community activists, along with allies in California’s Owens Valley, celebrated a victory when the site of the Manzanar concentration camp, located along U.S. Highway 395 between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence, was designated as a National Historic Site on March 3, 1992, by an act of Congress.

It took twelve more years for the Manzanar National Historic Site to become a fully operational unit of the National Park Service, with its Visitor Center opening in April 2004. Since then, several physical elements of the World War II concentration camp have been reconstructed, additional exhibits continue to be developed, gardens are being excavated and rehabilitated, archaeological digs are uncovering more and more artifacts, and oral histories are being collected.

“It’s amazing,” said Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. “It took 23 years to be designated as a National Historic Site. Then, it took twelve more years to build the Visitor Center and have a grand opening in 2004. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”

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AUDIO: Manzanar, Manzanar Pilgrimage The Focus of 99% Invisible Podcast

The cemetery monument at Manzanar.
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

On March 28, 2017, the Manzanar Pilgrimage and its origins, along with the Manzanar National Historic Site, was the focus of 99% Invisible, a podcast that. “…is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about—the unnoticed architecture and design [and history] that shape our world. With 150 million downloads, 99% Invisible is one of the most popular podcasts on iTunes.”

You can find out more about 99% Invisible here.

Their podcast on Manzanar features interviews with Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar Committee co-founder Warren Furutani, Alisa Lynch of the Manzanar National Historic Site and Manzanar Committee Co-Chair Bruce Embrey. You’ll also hear excerpts from Manzanar Pilgrimage and Manzanar Committee co-founder Sue Kunitomi Embrey’s oral history with

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What’s New At Manzanar NHS: Construction On Historic Women’s Latrine Has Begun

Initial work on constructing an historic replica of the Block 14 women’s
latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site has begun. In this photo,
the historic concrete slab foundation is being reinforced with rebar
to meet current seismic standards.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee

INDEPENDENCE, CA — With the 25th Anniversary of Manzanar becoming a National Historic Site coming up on March 3, 2017, and with the much more significant anniversary happening just a few weeks prior—the 75th Anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, the Manzanar National Historic Site is working to bring two new exhibits online.

As reported on September 22, work is in progress on a classroom exhibit, which will be housed in the Block 14 barracks. But also in the works is the construction of an historic replica of the Block 14 women’s latrine, with some exhibit material coming after construction is completed on the structure.

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Flood Damage At Manzanar NHS Could Have Been Much Worse

UPDATED with new photos of flood damage released on July 27, 2013. Manzanar’s auto tour road re-opened on July 29.

Flood waters from heavy thunderstorms in the Eastern Sierra mountains
to the west of Manzanar National Historic Site during the overnight
hours of July 22-23, 2013, reached Old Highway 395, which now serves
as a frontage road for Manzanar NHS.
NPS Photo/Jeff Burton

LOS ANGELES — After news spread of flood damage at Manzanar National Historic Site, the result of heavy thunderstorms on the night of July 22-23, 2013, there was concern, generated by photos posted on Facebook later that day, that the damage was much more extensive than the National Park Service had initially believed.

However, while the damage is significant, those fears have proven to be unfounded.

“The real fortunate thing is that it wasn’t a huge torrent that would’ve swept a person standing there away, where lives would’ve been lost, or pick up trucks would’ve been moved,” said Les Inafuku, Superintendent, Manzanar National Historic Site. “That did happen down south, in Olancha. Some people in a four-wheel drive [vehicle] were taken for a ride, two days prior [to the flooding at Manzanar].”

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