Changes to the foundation’s web presence will include offering visitors a virtual tour of its Interpretive Learning Center, new educational curriculum for teachers and students and access to camp-related documents and artifacts, said Stevan Leger, the foundation’s executive director.
Up until last August, the Heart Mountain foundation’s focus was getting ready for the Interpretative Learning Center’s grand opening. In the time since it opened, much of the effort was focused on working out the bugs, Leger said.
“Now we want to kind of move forward,” he said.
The overhaul of the foundation’s online presence is a part of that process.
The work will include preparing, scanning, copying and organizing the foundation’s artifacts and archives from the camp for the website.
The foundation — with contractor help — also will be developing educational content and online curriculum. The foundation has curriculum and a workbook they’ve been using for teachers in Wyoming, but the next step will include putting one online that has interactivity.
“That’s what’s going to take more time to develop,” Leger said.
Through the revamped website, the foundation hopes to give a broader audience access to a more complete understanding of the internment story and the constitutional issues it raises, said the non-profit organization’s pitch to the Park Service.
It will include letting “people who can’t drive here” take a kind of virtual tour of the learning center from their computer, Leger said.
“We’d rather they came,” he added, but the website is intended as an alternative for when people aren’t able to visit the center.
The improved online presence, in additional to being educational, also is expected to be a good martketing tool offline.
“We think that the better job we can do ... with our online presence, the better we can do attracting to people to the area,” Leger said.
He said even in the last couple weeks, business at the center has picked up quite a bit.
“We’re anticipating really a busy summer,” Leger said. “We hope that we bring a lot of people to the area and they’ll and visit Powell and visit Cody and stay.”
Leger expects the web work — which will be funded from the federal grant, the foundation’s budget and a Ford Foundation grant — to take about a year.
The grant to the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation was one of 17 awarded by the Department of the Interior and announced last week. The grants to preserve and interpret Japanse American interment sites totaled nearly $2.9 million.
“If we are to tell the full story of America, we must ensure that we include difficult chapters, such as the grave injustice of internment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a statement. “The internment sites serve as poignant reminders for us — and for the generations to come — that we must always be vigilant in upholding civil liberties for all.”
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were detained at 10 War Relocation Camps and more than 40 other sites out of concern they couldn’t be trusted to be loyal to the U.S. in the war against Japan. Roughly 11,000 Japanese Americans were detained at Heart Mountain between 1942 and 1945.
Saving the smokestack
A newly-awarded grant from the U.S. Department of Interior will help put more information online about the Heart Mountain Relocation Center soon, while work at the site continues from a grant the department awarded last year.
Interior-funded efforts to figure out how to stop the Heart Mountain Relocation’s iconic brick chimney from toppling continued last week.
The chimney, which helped heat the internment camp’s hospital, is leaning about 16 inches off-center to the east, said Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Executive Director Stevan Leger.
The No. 1 concern is safety, Leger said, and on top of that, “it’s kind of an icon, really, to the camp and also the community. I don’t think most people would like to see that fall down.”
The “very thorough” work this month included digging into the foundation, examining it with radar, sampling soil 35 feet down and taking sophisticated measurements of wind and temperature, Leger said.
The hope is to come with a plan for stabilizing the leaning structure.
“I doubt that we’ll straighten it, but I don’t know,” Leger said.
His understanding from the recent work is that rain and water has blown into the chimney through cracks and the mortar over the years.
The base of the chimney never really dries out, so in the winter, the water freezes and expands, and the chimney tips slightly to the east, Leger said. When the ice thaws, the chimney settles, but not all the way back to where it once stood, he said of the going theory.
“Over the years it just keeps moving ever so slightly, more and more and more,” he said. The fix will probably involve trying to find a way to keep the water out and stabilize the movement that’s already occurred, Leger said.
The Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office and Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the former internment site, is administering the $215,911 grant funding the work.