Friday, February 17, 2017

ASA launches new Japanese American internment digital collection

On February 19, the Arkansas State Archives is launching an online digital collection of materials related to Japanese American internment camps in Arkansas, Department of Arkansas Heritage Director Stacy Hurst announced today. The launch coincides with the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of people of Japanese ancestry from the west coast in February 1942 and led to the creation of internment camps across the interior of the country during World War II.

The collection, “You Fought Prejudice and Won: Japanese American Internment Camps in Arkansas,” contains over 750 documents and images from the State Archives, relating to the Rohwer and Jerome Relocation Centers in the Arkansas Delta.  The camps housed approximately 16,000 Japanese and Japanese-American citizens between 1942 and 1945.  Materials in the online collection include photographs, letters, official documents, newspaper articles, personal narratives and artwork from internees and camp officials.

These materials were digitized as second phase of a larger collaborative project, funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service.  The collaborative project, “Rohwer Reconstructed,” directed by the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, will feature materials from multiple Arkansas archival repositories, as well as 2D maps and a 3D reconstruction of the camp.  Phase one of the Rohwer Reconstructed project is slated for completion in March 2017, with phase two materials to be added over the course of the following year. The entire project is slated for completion in September 2018.

Dr. Lisa Speer, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives, says of the digital project, “This project to create greater public awareness of the plight of Japanese Americans and Japanese- born immigrants in the U.S. during the second World War is critical to helping us understand the experience of those who suddenly find themselves under suspicion by the country they have chosen to call home.”  “Hopefully, this digital collection has lessons we can learn from the past and apply to our future,” Speer noted.

“You Fought Prejudice and Won: Japanese American Internment Camps in Arkansas,” is the 20th online collection created by the Arkansas State Archives since the launch of its digital collections website, the Arkansas Digital Ark-ives in 2014. This collection joins others on the site relating to World War I, Arkansas Territory, and the Civil War, which can all be viewed at The Arkansas Digital Ark-ives

The Arkansas State Archives is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage and is responsible for collecting and maintaining the largest collection of historical materials on Arkansas in the world.  The State Archives has two branch locations; the Northeast Arkansas Regional Archives is located in Powhatan and the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is located in Washington.

Other agencies of the Department of Arkansas Heritage include the Arkansas Arts Council, the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, the Old State House Museum, the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and the Historic Arkansas Museum.