Park History

The Manzanar Oral History Project

Kristen Luetkemeier, Park Ranger, Manzanar National Historic Site
Manzanar National Historic Site
Kristen Luetkemeier, Park Ranger, Manzanar National Historic Site

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Kristen Luetkemeier, Park Ranger, Manzanar National Historic Site: Roughly 10,000 Japanese Americans were sent to Manzanar Relocation Center, one of ten camps set up in 1942 in the wake of Executive Order 9066.  President Roosevelt issued the order two months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, enabling the removal of everyone of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States.  Many of the interviews recorded by the National Park Service for the Manzanar Oral History Project are with Japanese Americans forced away from their West Coast homes, and some are with civilian camp administrators or Army personnel.  Many of these narrators spent time at Manzanar, while others were at different camps or detention centers or left the West Coast prior to being sent to a camp.  

What is now Manzanar National Historic Site has been a dynamic location over the last 150 years.  Owens Valley Paiutes, Eastern and immigrant ranchers, turn-of-the-century agriculturists, and water engineers and officials from the City of Los Angeles all shaped the place before the federal government leased it as a place of confinement.  The National Park Service has been a presence here since 1992.  The Manzanar Oral History Project also interviews people connected with these varied, yet connected, stories.

The Manzanar Oral History Project has conducted nearly 400 oral history interviews over the last 15 years.  Nearly half have a draft or final transcription.  

A main way interview content is disseminated to the public is through our work with an organization called Densho, which hosts interview recordings and transcripts as part of an online archive.  I also provide recordings and transcripts to researchers upon request.  

Oral history is also integral to site management; we use it in exhibits, archeology, planning, outreach, and ranger programs.  Come visit us to see how oral history will play a part of our newest exhibits, currently under development for the reconstructed barracks buildings.