August 30 2011 // Work

Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, Wyoming

"What does it mean?" 

"We haven't done anything wrong."
"Why are they treating us like criminals?"
"But I am an American citizen."

Endless questions of the Japanese people living in the States raced on and on. Why were they being imprisoned at Heart Mountain? How did this happen?

With the attack on Pearl Harbor and World War II in full swing, the resentment and fear of all Japanese people brought about the apparent need to corral these people in one centralized place, which would be called Heart Mountain. This self-contained area in Wyoming was waiting for the thousands of Japanese people that were ripped away from their homes, their jobs, and their lives. They were then forced to relocate and start completely over, with nothing more than what they could carry on their backs. They would end up surviving by working together as a community, a character already infused in them by their Japanese heritage.

Decades later a museum, the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, has been built to honor these people and their experience, to help us feel what they felt and be enveloped by their stories. Applied Art & Technology had the privilege to be a part of this homage, by providing the audio-visual components for the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center, whose construction was finished in late August, 2011. The AV interactive exhibits include themes such as Women and Mothers, Draft Resisters, Forced Removal, Life at Camp, and The Japanese in America. A visitor may push a button to view the clips within these interactive exhibits. When a button is pushed, the monitor's screen comes alive with various scenes from Heart Mountain such as a haircut and shave in a local barbershop, kids sledding down a hill, and workers in the field proudly showing off their crops. Interviews from Heart Mountain internees are also included in the exhibits. Their stories shed light on life at Heart Mountain, the prejudice they experienced for being Japanese, and the shock of having enjoyed freedom as an American citizen to suddenly becoming a prisoner under a guard's constant watch.

Another interactive exhibit allows the visitor to use button controls to fly or walk around a 3D-rendered version of the camp, giving one a more clear idea of the massive scale and feel of the camp filled with countless rows of barracks. This creative work was done, pro bono, by the Academy of Art University Schools of Game Design, Visual Effects, and Motion Pictures & Television, which was headed up by Vanessa Yuille.

Although what happened at Heart Mountain is very somber, the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center duly honors the resilience of the Japanese people, and gives us a window into their experience and vivid memories of a place that will always be embedded in their minds.

Written By

Jeanie Jorgensen

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