Digital Landscapes

2013: The Tie that Binds: Digital Storytelling from Jerome Japanese American Internment Center


Closing of the Jerome Center, Denson, Arkansas. 6/19/44

Among the most haunting images of the Jerome Japanese American Internment Center are those that show a departure tradition in which friends and family on trains or buses hold paper streamers from the windows, the ends of which are held by those left behind. This tradition allowed for those few moments of extended contact, before the streamers broke. While much work has been done on the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center over the past several years, the stories of those at Jerome, located 30 miles southwest of the Rohwer Center, needs to be told.

Mock-up of the interactive installation ‘splash screen.’

Portable Suitcase Concept

This proposal is for the creation of an interactive museum installation for Jerome which would be housed in the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum in McGehee, Arkansas with smaller portable components, a ‘Jerome Experience’ traveling suitcase, that would be sent into schools throughout the state to raise awareness of the site and this period in our history.

Sample Portable Suitcase for Use by Local Schools

A website for the Jerome Japanese American Internment Center will also be created, to bring it into line with the newly launched and highly trafficked website for the Rohwer Japanese American Internment Center, created by the Center for Digital Initiatives.

Mock-up of the interactive installation ‘Camp Life.’

Through the interactive exhibit, 3D animated streamers, recalling those seen in so many photographs where internees are leaving Jerome, will move and flow, guiding the viewer through the narrative in a highly visual and tactile way. This theme was also chose as the ribbon is a structuring image which played a significant role in Japanese American life before and during their time at Jerome. In Japanese American homes, shrines dedicated to ancestors are frequently adorned with ribbons used as decorations. Ribbons were often used in the arts and crafts from the Japanese American Internment Centers, and some of these objects were displayed in 2010-11 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition, ‘The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps, 1942-46.’ In this installation the streamers, once broken as friends and family left the Centers, are finally joined again, becoming whole as the viewer is drawn through a compelling and much needed narrative of Jerome.