If I mention the word "Holocaust," odds are you will immediately think of World War II, Nazi Germany, and the genocide of approximately six million Jews. You will also likely think of the concentration and extermination camps they were sent to.
You may or may not have been aware that after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government enacted an internment program of its own targeted at people of Japanese ancestry. Roughly 120,000 such individuals were detained in camps during the war. Many were U.S. citizens. To this day it remains the largest forced removal of people in U.S. history. While these camps were not the extermination camps of the Nazi regime, they were an interruption and denial of basic freedoms to many.
Earlier this year, I received an email from National Park Service. They wanted to use one of my photos in a report they were assembling to "to determine whether the Honouliuli Internment Camp and associated World War II internment sites in Hawai'i are nationally significant, suitable, and feasible for inclusion in the national park system." Having worked with the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department on several extremely rewarding projects in the past, I readily agreed.
The photo in question can be seen at the right and was made inside the Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum in John Day, Oregon. The Park Service wanted to include it as an example of a National Historic Landmark that reflects the theme of "Expressing Cultural Values." Coincidentally, the National Park Service was a consultant on that project. There are several other factors that I can relate directly to the Honouliuli study as well.
I was involved with the Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum when I was employed at Hara Shick Architecture – which was owned by the brother and sister team of George Hara and Leslie Hara Shick. Prior to starting my own firm, I worked at a number of other firms. Theirs was, by far, the most sensitive to the celebration and protection of cultural values. Additionally, both George and Leslie happen to be third-generation Japanese Americans and during WWII, their father and his family were incarcerated at the Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho.
Another significant event in my life came a few years after the Kam Wah Chung project was completed. In 2010, during a vacation to Las Vegas and Death Valley, I found time to visit the nearby Owens Valley. In addition to seeing Mount Whitney, the Alabama Hills, and Galen Rowell’s Moutain Light gallery, I also had the opportunity to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site. Like Minidoka, it was one of a number of "War Relocation Centers" that held Japanese Americans during WWII. While most of its buildings were removed after the war, several have been since reconstructed for visitors to see. Interpretive displays with a new visitor center are incredibly effective at telling the stories of those detained there.
I'll have to look through my photo archive and potentially formulate a post on Manzanar. Until then, you can read more about the Honouliuli study in the draft report, which is now available for download. The photo above appears on page 86. Comments pertaining to this draft can be submitted via the Park Service’s website until July 31. I'm incredibly proud to have been able to participate in this study - even if it's just a small contribution of a single image. A big part of architecture is the creation and preservation of memorable places. A key part of that goal is the celebration and protection of cultural values.