Manzanar’s Community Archeology Program Receives National Recognition

Manzanar National Historic Site’s Community Archeology Program has received the prestigious 2021 Award for Excellence in Public Archaeology Programming from the Society for American Archaeology (SAA).

The Manzanar Community Archeology Program has won the prestigious 2021 Award for Excellence in Public Archaeology Programming from the Society for American Archaeology (SAA).

Founded in 1934, the SAA is an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas. With more than 7,000 members—including professional and avocational archaeologists, archaeology students in colleges and universities, and archaeologists working at Tribal agencies, museums, government agencies, and the private sector—the SAA is the largest professional archaeological organization in the United States.

Volunteers uncover features of Manzanar Children’s Village, the only orphanage in the ten incarceration camps managed by the War Relocation Authority during World War II. The “village” was home to more than 100 children ranging in ages from newborn to 19 years old. In all, the US government incarcerated 120,313 Japanese Americans based solely on their ancestry. Credit: National Park Service/Manzanar

Manzanar’s Community Archeology Program was recognized as an exemplary long-term public engagement program that highlights best practices in archaeology outreach and education. Since 2003, the Community Archaeology Program has enlisted hundreds of volunteers to investigate the physical traces of Manzanar’s history. Volunteers have come from Owens Valley towns and across the U.S., as well as from Japan. They have ranged in age from 9 to over 90, and represent diverse communities and experiences. Former incarcerees—including a former orphan who lived at Manzanar’s Children’s Village—and their descendants; primary school, high school, and university students; service groups; individuals; and families all volunteer. Many return year after year.

Project goals are developed in collaboration with the descendant communities and are designed to uncover features that will help Manzanar’s 100,000 annual visitors learn more about the site’s full history. In the most recent project, volunteers removed brush and recent sediments from foundations and landscaping features at the Children’s Village orphanage, and retrieved toys, baby bottles, and crib parts. Once it is safe to work together on site again, we hope that volunteers will be able to help uncover more features and stories at Manzanar.

Manzanar National Historic Site is located at 5001 Highway 395, six miles south of Independence and nine miles north of Lone Pine, California. Learn more on our web site at https://www.nps.gov/manz or on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ManzanarNationalHistoricSite.

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