Volunteer Program Highlights
Volunteer Program Highlights 2011
The Manzanar volunteer program experienced a significant increase in hours donated in 2011 thanks to strong partnerships (both old and new), dedicated individuals and the diversity of projects, of which all participants remain committed to sharing the stories associated with the internment of Japanese Americans. The following projects highlight the diversity of methods that allow the site to connect with visitors of today and tomorrow: transcribing oral history interviews, docenting, researching daily life at Manzanar via camp newspapers, writing and editing exhibits and brochures, reconstructing an historic bridge over an historic pond garden, clearing brush around historic features and from the historic road grid, removing non-historic fencing, excavating and stabilizing a pond garden created during the internment of Japanese Americans, designing and building a landscape model of Manzanar which includes the upper Sierra Nevada peaks, watering historic fruit trees and much more. The site is ever grateful for the gracious support from volunteers.
Volunteer Program Highlights 2010
To mitigate dust at Manzanar, Japanese Americans engaged in an extensive landscaping program. The NPS has excavated a number of remarkably well preserved gardens. This summer, thirty-five volunteers helped uncover two in Block 15. According to the Manzanar Free Press(MFP), "One of the most beautiful fish ponds in the center is found at Block 15 recreation hall. The pond is kidney shaped with a miniature bridge at the narrowest points." A second appeared in a November, 1942 MFP story announcing winners of a "best garden contest." Volunteers and rangers were amazed to find that stone lanterns from the "Rec Hall Garden," feared lost, had only been toppled into the pond. Dusted off and stood in their original positions, they looked exactly as in 1942 photos. Third Prize winner in the competition went to one of the most unique gardens in the camp, with a scallop-shaped pond and large island. Hank Umemoto of Gardena reflected, "Although the Issei engineers of magnificent gardens have long passed on, they have left us a legacy, a legacy that peace and tranquility can exist amid the doom and gloom of war and turmoil." The NPS is grateful for its volunteers. Ranger Carrie Andresen explains, "Their commitment initiates a deeper understanding into the lives of those who spent time here." The two gardens uncovered this summer will hopefully lure visitors from their cars into the heart of the camp, to discover what Manzanar means to them.
Imagine hundreds of pieces of fabric in shapes, sizes, colors, and prints sitting next to a sewing machine. You may not immediately see a connection between the swatches and the internment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States during World War II. Meeting Cathy Erickson and seeing her quilts would change your mind. Cathy, our Artist in Residence, spent one month at Manzanar NHS, this spring. During her stay, she demonstrated her artistry and techniques and presented programs to the public, while sharing many of her completed quilts. Her quilts combine design and storytelling, synthesized from historic or modern photographs; stories from books, websites, personal interviews; trips to camps; and Day of Remembrance gatherings. During Cathy’s presentations, she described her process step by step, revealing the beginning stages and concepts, techniques, and the end results of her artwork. She uses computer programs to create unique patterns and free-stitch designs into her quilts. Cathy’s quilts are not the ones of homespun Americana, as they challenge the audience with stories of separation, hardship, and self-reliance. The pieces also challenge one’s perception of quilts, themselves. Her more dramatic pieces is the “Carpenter’s Quilt” combining traditional carpentry tools (sand paper, nails, and even a planar) with fabric. Carpentry became a hobby and necessity for many in the camps. Cathy’s work touched many visitors and park staff.
Volunteer Program Highlight 2008
Manzanar National Historic Site continued many successful programs in 2007 including our docent program, our Artist-in-Residence program, and our partnership with EcoAcademy, Los Angeles, which brings student work groups from urban neighborhoods to Manzanar.
Volunteer Program Highlight 2006
Manzanar National Historic Site initiated our first Artist in Residence (AIR) program in 2006.
Volunteer Program Highlight 2005
The maintenance division here at Manzanar National Historic Site has been proactively working with teenagers from Earth Systems Science, Incorporated (ESSI). ESSI is a National Wildlife Habitat Stewards volunteer group that comes from Los Angeles County. Our maintenance staff takes these teenagers out into the site to teach them about the importance of protecting and cleaning up historic structures. Each time they visit Manzanar they volunteer around 400 hours, while cleaning up historic ponds and gardens as well as clearing away weeds from historic structures. They also explore the diverse ecosystem of Manzanar. They see and identify several species of lizards, rabbits, plants, birds and much more. The ESSI teens offer our visitors the opportunity to see the remnants of the internment camp. The work that these teenagers do is so vital to telling the story of Manzanar. We appreciate the gift of time that these teenagers from Los Angeles County offer to Manzanar. We also appreciate the time of their teacher Mr. Lee and his staff.
Photo by Archie Miyatake
Volunteer Program Highlight 2004
One of the highlights for visitors of all ages to the new Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center is a 10’ x 9’ model of Manzanar War Relocation Center crafted and donated by a generous group of former Manzanar internees. After hearing that the NPS lacked sufficient funding to include a model in the new exhibit, the Manzanar High School Reunion Committee approached the National Park Service with an offer to make one. In all, thirteen graduates from the classes of 1943-45 worked on the project. The reunion committee paid for materials and the group devoted 1,482 hours. .
Photo by Archie Miyatake
What started out a small project turned out to be a media hit. TV and newspapers in Southern California and Japan picked up the story. Words cannot express our gratitude for this group of volunteers whose work supplements the visitor experience at Manzanar National Historic Site in a powerful way. After looking at the model, visitors are consistently astonished by the magnitude of the camp, the sheer number of buildings and the number of people they represent.This model is a very important part of the exhibits for two reasons: 1) its accurate depiction of what was here 2) it was a gift from a special group of former internees.
Volunteer Program Highlight 2003
In the spring of 2003, a dozen volunteers were recruited to create a digital version of the War Relocation Authority's Manzanar Roster. The project was labor intensive, requiring volunteers to decipher nearly 300,000 entries from a poor-quality reduced-sized photocopy of the roster. The data was entered into a spreadsheet program. Once data entry was complete, volunteers assisted in proofreading the spreadsheet and creating a list of names from the spreadsheet for interpretive exhibits. Currently, a volunteer is creating a searchable database of the information to be used by park staff and researchers. A test version of the database will soon be available to visitors in the interpretive center
Did You Know?
The city of Los Angeles gets much of its water from the Owens Valley, and it owns the majority of the land on the valley floor. The federal government leased the land for the camp from Los Angeles because it was vacant and had water.