Manzanar, Opens New Barracks Exhibit

Earlier this week I found myself with a free day in the Lone Pine area, and having just had Alisa Lynch, the Chief of Interpretation at Manzanar on my radio program, it made perfect sense to stop in and meet her face to face. I also wanted to meet Rose Masters, another of the fine Rangers, whom I have had regular communications with over previous months. I was pleased to find that both of them were on duty, and available for a chat.

For those not familiar with the history of Manzanar, it is one of the darkest stories in American History, and one that should never be forgotten. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, all citizens (south-western states) of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and placed in one of ten “evacuee camps,” and held there for up to three years. Manzanar was one of these places. These people lost their homes, businesses, and lives.

Interesting enough, I paid my two Ranger friends a visit just days before the public opening of Manzanar’s new Barracks Exhibit. The exhibit provides a glimpse at the living conditions in which the Japanese Americans were subjected to; from the day that they arrived, and found themselves in crowded living spaces, to the final years, where living space improved and became more like small one room apartments.

Ranger Rose provided me with a personal guided tour of the new exhibit, and now I provide you with a first glimpse.

 

Welcome to the Manzanar Barracks.

Welcome to the Manzanar Barracks.

 

"The First Rugged Months" - During the first months at Manzanar, living space was cramped, and detainees only had a few personal belongings.

“The First Rugged Months” – During the first months at Manzanar, living space was cramped, and detainees only had a few personal belongings.

 

First impressions of Manzanar.

First impressions of Manzanar.

 

Upon on arrival at Manzanar, detainees found a stack of sheets, blankets, and a cot.

Upon on arrival at Manzanar, detainees found a stack of sheets, blankets, and a cot.

 

First impressions.

First impressions.

 

 

Manzanar detainees share with you part of their stories via voice recordings. Many of their stories are heart wrenching.

Manzanar detainees share with you part of their stories via voice recordings. Many of their stories are heart wrenching.

 

The Block Manager's Office - Every block had a Japanese American Block Manager. It was their responsibility to hear all complaints, and assume the responsibility of the investigation.

The Block Manager’s Office – Every block had a Japanese American Block Manager. It was their responsibility to hear all complaints, and assume the responsibility of the investigation.

 

In August of 1942, there was significant improvements made to the standard of living. Some personal belongings were now able to be delivered to Manzanar, and living spaces became less cramped.

In August of 1942, there was significant improvements made to the standard of living. Some personal belongings were now able to be delivered to Manzanar, and living spaces became less cramped.

 

A child's partitioned room, in the new larger living areas.

A child’s partitioned room, in the new larger living areas.

 

In 1943, detainees were forced to decide their loyalty to the United States.

In 1943, detainees were forced to decide their loyalty to the United States.

 

Answers had consequences.

Answers had consequences.

 

An interactive video booth provides taped interviews with past detainees.

An interactive video booth provides taped interviews with past detainees.

 

Overall the new exhibit is breathtaking, informative, and very educational. At times the strength in the stories of those Americans whom were detained here will bring a smile to your face, and a heart wrenching tear to your eye.

The amount of interactive activities makes this a shining example of how museums and learning facilities should present educational tools, and involve patrons.

Manzanar is located 9 miles north of Lone Pine, CA, along Highway 395. The visitor center is open everyday, except Christmas.  Check their website for hours, and more details. The new exhibit is now open to the public for visitation.

 

 

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.