Life at Topaz Internment Camp on Display Online

Group of Japanese-Americans and administrators celebrate the 1945 New Year in the recreation hall. On January 2, 1945 the exclusion order that included forced relocation was rescinded. - Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society and KUED Topaz Residents Collection

(KCPW News)  Images of a dark period in Japanese American history are now on display thanks to the state history department.  The department has created an online exhibit of the World War II Topaz Internment Camp in Delta. Utah State History Archivist Heidi Orchard says the new collection documents the 3-year internment of more than 11,000 Americans of Japanese descent.

“There are negative things in history, internment of the Japanese Americans during World War II is certainly something that I don’t think we are necessarily proud of as a nation,” says Orchard.  “As you see in this collection, those internees made the most of it. These Japanese Americans who were certainly dealt a bad hand, but did what they could. It shows an American spirit that we need to remember.”

The collection is made up of 220 photos donated by KUED, which used them in the production of a 1987 documentary. It includes photos from the pre-evacuation, the internee’s temporary relocation at the Tanforan Race Track, their arrival at Topaz, and their release from the camp. Orchard says the collection offers an intimate look at life inside the camp.

“They are images of the activities that went on at Topaz.  There are Boy Scout activities, you’ve got internees who are actually doing construction work, water work, surveying, working in the hospitals and in the schools,” says Orchard. “So all of those everyday activities are represented in this collection.”

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held August 4th for the construction of the new Topaz Museum in Delta.