Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Topaz Museum, Delta, Utah

 The Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah had its grand opening on July 8, 2017. The groundbreaking for the museum was in 2012, and then it opened with temporary exhibits, artwork done by internees. Planning and funding followed to develop new exhibits for the museum.

If you want the quick synopsis, it's: Wow! You have got to see this museum!

The Topaz Museum is amazing. Topaz was one of several internment camps during World War II. Americans of Japanese descent living within 100 miles of the West Coast were sent to internment camps because they were seen as a threat to American security. Even if they were elderly or infants. Even if they had thriving businesses or farmed crops needed by wartime America. They weren't reimbursed. They could only take one suitcase. They didn't know where they were going or how long they were going for.


One of the things that I think worked so well in this exhibit is that it not only tells you about the Topaz story, but makes you reflect on your own. In the panel below, the question at the bottom asks, "How many years ago did your family immigrate to the United States? What problems did they face?"

Californians sent to the West Desert were in for a real shock. Topaz was out in the middle of nowhere, with little precipitation and little vegetation. One thing there was plenty of was dust. And tough living conditions.

This painting illustrates some of the dust storms they faced.

Families were assigned to spartan barracks without insulation.

The museum has exhibits about what life was like. Schools were created plus some social opportunities to help keep people busy.


There were some quotes in the exhibit that really resonated.

Some of the previous artwork is still on display. I was glad to see that.


One of the panels towards the end of the exhibit questions, "Could an injustice like Topaz happen again in our country?"

 It took the country a long time to recognize the injustice that had been done. In 1988, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act, signed by President Ronald Reagan. This act acknowledged "fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights" of people of Japanese ancestry. The act also authorized payment for the 82,000 people who had been interned. Unfortunately, 40,000 of them had already died.

Hopefully this museum will help us remember what our great nation is for and help to prevent such atrocities in the future.

In the small gift shop, you can also get directions to where the actual Topaz site was located. No buildings still remain, but you can get a sense of what it would have been like to live out there for years in inadequate buildings and few freedoms.

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