History and anthropology students from Cal State San Bernardino, led by Cherstin Lyon, associate professor of history, will volunteer over spring break at one of two public archeology projects planned this year at the Manzanar National Historical Site.
The U.S. National Park Service has organized two archeology programs, March 24-29 and May 26-30, which it has opened up for volunteers. The participating CSUSB students are members of the university’s history and anthropology clubs, and will be at Manzanar from March 25-27, making it the fifth consecutive year CSUSB has participated. The history club was awarded first place in a national competition for history clubs for its service to the university and to the community, including its ongoing work at Manzanar.
“Volunteering along with students, camping out, and hiking in the Alabama Hills after a long day of work has to be the highlight of the entire year,” said Lyon, noting that Manzanar staff are always impressed with the hard work and obvious sacrifice that students make to volunteer over their spring break. “Working alongside community members, some of whom were either in Manzanar themselves during the war, or had relatives who were incarcerated gives students a personal connection with the history that they are working to recover and preserve.”
“Reading about history and exploring it are two very different things,” said CSUSB student Alex Hampton. He is a senior history major and vice president of the history club. Hampton volunteered last year at Manzanar and will return this year. “To actually stand where Japanese American internees lived provides so much more depth than you can get in a book.”
He added, “Visiting Manzanar is a remarkable experience that will allow you to empathize with people you may have never known about.”
Hampton and approximately 20 other students, CSUSB alumni and community members are planning to volunteer again this year representing CSUSB during this alternative spring break service trip. CSUSB students will supervise a group of 20 high school volunteers on Saturday, March 25. NPS archaeologist and Cultural Resources Manager Jeff Burton said he hopes that the CSUSB students and alumni will also be an inspiration to the high school volunteers.
This year is a particularly important one at Manzanar as it marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which authorized the U.S. military to create zones for which it could exclude all people of Japanese ancestry, both American citizens and non-citizens. It also is the 25th anniversary of Manzanar, one of the 10 camps where Japanese Americans were held during World War II.
According to the U.S National Park Service, Manzanar’s award-winning public archeology program provides exceptional opportunities to learn about the past and help preserve the site and its stories for the future. Volunteers will have the unique opportunity to assist the National Park Service in uncovering and stabilizing Manzanar’s historic administration and staff housing area.
Participants will learn about both the common and contrasting experiences of camp staff and incarcerees as well as the differences between Japanese landscaping aesthetics and the military style of the administration block.
The public is welcome to join students and faculty. Volunteer positions are available to anyone age 15 and over who is physically able to work outdoors participating in moderately strenuous activities. Volunteers will be digging with shovels and small hand tools, cutting and loading brush, using wheelbarrows, collecting rocks to reconstruct landscape features, painting rock alignments, and occasionally screening sediments to retrieve artifacts.
Previous archeological experience is helpful, but not necessary. Most of the work is physically demanding, but there will be a variety of tasks each day, to suit a varying interests and energy levels. Volunteers just need an interest in history and a willingness to get covered with dust and/or paint spatter.
The work will be conducted outdoors, regardless of weather, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, including weekends. Volunteers may work any number of days or hours, but a full day or multiple days are preferred. Bring water, lunch, and work gloves, and wear sunscreen, a hat, and sturdy boots. Please bring any necessary medications.
Advance sign-up is required since the project is limited to 25 participants per day. To sign up, please contact Manzanar’s Volunteer Ambassador Katie Busch at (760) 878-2194, ext. 3312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For project questions, contact Cultural Resources Manager Jeff Burton at 760-878-2194 ext. 3305 or email email@example.com.
For questions regarding CSUSB participation, contact Cherstin Lyon at 909-537-3836 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Manzanar National Historic Site is located at 5001 Hwy. 395, six miles south of Independence, California. Learn more on the National Park Service website at www.nps.gov/manz or on its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ManzanarNationalHistoricSite.
Top photo: A group from Cal State San Bernardino work at the Manzanar National Historic Site last year. Photo courtesy of Barbara Steadman.
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