New Auraria exhibit brings Colorado’s darker history to the surface

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Posted Tue, Feb 26, 2013

The sign introducing visitors to the exhibit.

The sign introducing visitors to the exhibit.

DENVER — The Auraria campus library is now hosting an exhibit that displays artifacts from fairly recent history (by archaeologists’ standards): a Japanese-American internment camp in southeastern Colorado.

Over the course of World War II, Camp Amache, a fenced-in square mile of land in Prowers County, became home to about 10,000 Japanese-Americans who were forced to relocate after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Now, 60 years later, archaeological digs in the area have uncovered many possessions and artifacts of the residents, which give a unique glimpse into what life was like in the camp.

Auraria’s exhibit, titled “Connecting the Pieces: Dialogues on the Amache Archaeological Collection,” displays several of these artifacts–mostly ordinary objects like a board game or a Mickey Mouse charm. On the wall behind the glass cases, there are plaques that show quotes from various people connected with the internment camps. For each object on display, there is an anecdote from someone who is familiar with the story behind it.

“Taken on their own, these things are pretty mundane,” said Matt Mariner, head of special collections and digital initiatives, who was answering questions at the opening of the exhibit. “But taken in context, it’s all very moving.”

Rosemary Evetts, the library’s archivist, described the reason behind the exhibit–and all the archaeological digs that have been conducted at Amache recently–this way: “After something like this occurs, people kind of forget about it…history at that time was written by white men. The war is over, people have forgotten about it. And now, sixty years later, it’s like, wait, what have we lost by not saving some of this history? What’s gone from the fabric of our society and culture now, because we don’t know this history?”

The artifacts were originally displayed at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. Evetts said she and Mariner decided to host the exhibit at Auraria in order to complement the library’s other primary source collections.

“The reason why we wanted to host it here is that Auraria has five small collections that are related to Amache,” she said. “[But] there is no three-dimensional stuff like this.”
Evetts also said she hopes to recreate the library’s digital collection of Amache history, which was taken off the web about four years ago due to technical problems. Part of her goal in hosting the exhibit is to generate interest in that project, to “get more people clamoring to use this stuff.”

Bonnie Clark, an associate professor in the University of Denver’s anthropology department, put together the “Connecting the Pieces” exhibit together with University of Denver students and members of the local community.

A notice regarding Executive Order 9066 hangs above the exhibit guest book.

A notice regarding Executive Order 9066 hangs above the exhibit guest book.

Want to Go?

  • When? The exhibit opened on February 19, the Japanese-American Internment Day of Remembrance, and will be there until March 20.
  • Where? It is located on the first floor of the library. There is a guest book where students and other visitors can record their visit and show support for the project.
  • How Much? The exhibit is free and open to the public.
  • Want to Learn More? The library’s other Amache collections, which contain things like correspondence, audio recordings and silk screens, are stored on the second floor and are also available to the public.

About S.L. Alderton

S.L. Alderton is an MSU Denver student majoring in magazine journalism.

View all posts by S.L. Alderton

2 Responses to “New Auraria exhibit brings Colorado’s darker history to the surface”

  1. Aaron Lambert Says:

    Great story! I think it’s great that MSU is hosting an exhibit such as this; it’s a great way to preserve some of our country’s history.

    Photo captions could benefit from having a little more info in them, and also, don’t forget to give credit for the photos, even if you tool them! Great job! 🙂

    Reply

  2. Ashley Hattle
    Ashley Hattle Says:

    What a good subject to cover! You’re right this is something most Americans have blocked out of history and out of their mind. It’s great to see you bring it back to our attention.

    Reply

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