HomeJapanese AmericanUtah Museum Seeks to Preserve Japanese Oral Histories

Utah Museum Seeks to Preserve Japanese Oral Histories

The Brigham City Museum in Utah is joining forces with a local family to shed light on Japanese American families who moved to Utah after being incarcerated during World War II, reports KSL.

The museum will partner with the Uyematsu family, one of the numerous Japanese families who settled in Box Elder County, Utah, following World War II.

Juno Uyematsu told KSL that his brother, based in California, reached out to the museum for assistance in creating an exhibition.

The Uyematsu family spent several years at the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming before relocating to Box Elder County after their release. When his family arrived in Utah, Juno Uyematsu told KSL there was “a lot of animosity against the Japanese at the time.”

The temporary exhibit at the Brigham City Museum will tell the Uyematsus’ story. Alana Blumenthal, the museum’s director, told The Herald Journal her team has been collecting artifacts and oral histories from Japanese American families in Box Elder County.

“We really want to honor the positive contributions that those families have made to the history and the growth of our community,” Blumenthal told The Herald Journal.

In addition to the Uyematsu family, the museum will also honor the Okimura family. Margee-kito Okimura was born in a stable stall at the Santa Anita Racecourse, where Japanese families were gathered in 1942 for incarceration camp processing. Okimura spoke to KSL about the camp stories she heard from her parents.

For the initial five years of her parents’ married life, they lived in three different camps. Starting with the racecourse, they were later assigned to the Japanese Internment camp in Jerome, Arkansas. Following World War II, they were moved to Tule Lake in California before settling in Box Elder County.

According to KSL, Okimura shared the hardships her family faced, saying, “We struggled to put nice clothes on our backs.” She recounted how her aunts used to exchange dresses to avoid wearing the same outfit every day, as they had only a few to their name.

While Okimura’s parents worked in the laundry, Uyematsu’s family was involved in agriculture. Uyematsu fondly recalled to KSL, “I remember going out and thinning sugar beets.”

According to The Herald Journal, the exhibit is set to run from February 2025 to June 2025. Although the exhibit is temporary, any oral histories or artifacts donated to the museum will become a part of its permanent collection.

The museum is also accepting pictures of items in lieu of donations.

“We’d love to take donations of items but understand that some items are too precious to part with, except for a short time,” Blumenthal said, according to The Herald Journal.

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