Site Search


Manzanar

Another popular and important part of the museum is the permanent exhibit displaying some of the few remaining artifacts from the Manzanar World War II Internment Center, which is located six miles south of Independence. After Japan's surprise bombing of Pearl Harbor, the US government forced more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to leave their homes and businesses in the Western United States and move into 10 "relocation centers." Featuring military style barracks and mess halls, guard towers, Military Police, and ringed by barbed wire, the "internees" called their new "home" at Manzanar a concentration camp. Manzanar, whose internees were mostly from the Southern Californian region, became a city of about 10,000 Japanese Americans during the war. The focal point of the Museum's exhibit is a replica of a typical barracks "apartment" at Manzanar. In addition, there are a significant number of artifacts from the camp on display, ranging from rice cookers to art to furniture, many of which were donated by former internees. The Shi and Mary Nomura Collection is made up of hundreds of photos of daily camp life, including photos of various social clubs and organizations, sports teams, school, work crews , social events, celebrations, and photos of the camp itself, including parks and walkways, barracks and apartments. The photos and artifacts provide a glimpse into the daily life of the internees, and record the amazing ability of the internees to create a community, maintain a family life, and carry on with a semblance of normalcy in the face of what has been called one of the most egregious examples of government-sanctioned disregard of bedrock civil rights in the nation's history. Almost immediately after the war, all of the camp's buildings and barracks were dismantled. Only the high school auditorium was left standing. Today, the renovated auditorium is the Visitor Center for the National Park Service Manzanar National Historic Site, which is open to the public.