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15 December 2018

Topaz Museum exhibits to be funded by Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant

The Topaz Museum Board received a $497,186 Japanese American Confinement Sites grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS).  The grant, announced on June 12 by the NPS, will be used to manufacture and install the exhibits for the Topaz Museum and will make it possible to open the museum doors to the public. The grand opening will be in 2015 and will be announced as the work on the exhibits progresses.

The exhibits have been in the planning stage since 2008 when the museum board began working with West Office Exhibition Design, an award-winning San Francisco Bay Area firm whose work is exhibited nationally and internationally.

On June 28-29 after the announcement of the award, the NPS, members of the Topaz Museum Board, and Japanese American community stakeholders from the San Francisco Bay Area met to develop a plan to produce the text for the museum exhibits.  At the meeting held in Reno, Nevada, participants shared their thoughts on important themes and key messages to be reflected in the exhibits.

In order to create a high-quality museum that effectively tells a powerful and complex story, all the participants at the June 28-29 Reno NPS-facilitated consultation session agree that the Topaz Museum Board will move forward with a plan including the following:

  1. The museum exhibits will follow a chronological narrative, as designed.
  2. A writer and designer along with a text/exhibit advisory group of four people, including historians, scholars and interpretive experts, will revise the current narrative to reflect input from the Reno meeting and previous comments on the draft narrative.
  3. A text/exhibit review group composed of other historians, scholars, interpretive experts outside the process, as well as the NPS, and a group of community stakeholders, will review and comment on exhibits. This group will make recommendations for any necessary revisions.
  4. Public meetings will be hosted once there is a product to present. The public will review and comment on the draft product and identify any significant gaps or issues. Any necessary adjustments will be made by the writing/design team.
  5. There will be continuing communication with community stakeholders on the progress of this plan to seek input when necessary.

The Topaz Museum Board recently hired Sarah Bartlett as the museum exhibit text writer. She works for Split Rock Studio and was the writer for the award-winning exhibit at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center.

The Topaz Museum Board has also named the four-person advisory group to work with Sarah Bartlett on the update of the exhibit narrative.  The group is comprised of Dr. Franklin Odo, who now leads a Theme Study on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, which will be published by the NPS in early 2016;  Dr. Cherstin Lyon, an associate professor of history at California State University, San Bernardino, whose work focuses on Asian American history, citizenship, immigration, and public and oral history;  Dr. Greg Robinson, Professor of History at l’Université du Québec À Montréal; and Nancy K. Araki, founding volunteer and first staff member of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), who recently retired after 28 years of helping create and establish JANM in Los Angeles.

In 2012, the Topaz Museum Board received a $714,000 grant from the NPS Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program to help construct the Topaz Museum building, which was completed in May 2014.

The Museum, located at 55 West Main in Delta, Utah, is 16 miles from the Topaz site where over 11, 000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated during World War II. The Topaz Museum Board owns 634 acres of the site, which became a National Historic Landmark in 2007.

The exhibit development was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program.  JACS grants are awarded to private non-profit organizations; educational institutions; state, local, and tribal governments; and other public entities to preserve and interpret U.S. confinement sites where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II.