For many, the period of Japanese American internment (1942-1945) during World War II is an event that is not closely associated with the Arkansas Delta, however southeast Arkansas was host to two internment camps: Rohwer and Jerome. In an effort to not lose the story of what occurred during this time, a coalition Arkansas organizations formed to educate the public about this significant event in American and Arkansas history.
In 2016, the Arkansas State Archives joined Rohwer Reconstructed: Interpreting Place Through Experience, a multi-phase collaborative project created by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies (CAST). The project began in 2013 as a way to build an online resource for researchers on Japanese American internment in the Rohwer camp, where nearly 12,000 people lived. According to the Rohwer Reconstructed website, the goal of the project is to tell an “abridged” story of the camp through documents, maps and visualizations presented in a technological framework.
Along with the Archives, the project includes Center for Applied Spatial Technologies, Arkansas State University, UA Fayetteville Special Collections, Central Arkansas Library System Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, UA Little Rock Center for Arkansas History and Culture and the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum of McGehee, with funding from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service and Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.
Currently, about a third of the Rohwer Reconstructed’s materials come from the Archives’ collection, which include photographs, government documents, official correspondence, letters, personal effects and newspaper articles.
Mary Dunn, the archival manager for technology and access, manages the Archives’ efforts for the project, with the majority of work done by Archival Assistant Crystal Shurley, Project Archivist Harry Lah and former Project Archivist Danielle Butler.
Dunn and Shurley have also had opportunities to share the Archives’ work and findings to the public, presenting at the 2017 Delta Symposium and the 2017 Connecting to Heritage Studies Consortium, both in Jonesboro, and in this past April’s Arkansas Historical Association Annual Conference in Fort Smith.
This August, Dunn and Lah will present to a national audience at the Council of State Archivists, Society of American Archivists, and National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators Joint Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
We will continue to update the public on the progress of the Archives’ work with Rohwer Reconstructed and with Dunn’s upcoming conference in D.C.