manzanar.jpg

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Aiko Morimoto, a survivor of a Japanese internment camp, sits on a cot in a rebuilt barracks at the National Park Service’s Manzanar camp in California, remembering her childhood.

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The Federal Government has restored a small section of the Manzanar Japanese internment camp in Owens Valley, California. Every year Japanese Americans have organized a pilgrimage to the camp for victims and their families of Executive Order 9066, which in early 1942 set the stage for the imprisonment of over 110,000 Japanese American citizens, in what is widely considered one of the worst historic violations of the Constitution.

When I was looking for photographs for this series, I tried to avoid museums and places where history had already been officially designated. I’m more interested in what is unwritten than what has already been categorized and labeled. But I’m also a fan of museums that leave things alone, or just rebuild things as they were-Auschwitz, the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was shot, and Manzanar. I only encountered Aiko touring a cabin because I showed up to an official ceremony early. Aiko had spent several years of her childhood in the Topaz camp in Utah. “It is good they have built this” she said to me. “But it is not the same. The dust, the bugs, the heat…no one would come visit if it were really the same.”

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