Eastern California Museum


Founded in 1928 in Independence, California, the Eastern California Museum (ECM) examines the history, both cultural and physical, of Inyo County, California. While the original founders hoped to focus on the disappearing Native Americans and early pioneers of the region, today the museum depicts the diverse cultural history of the region including artifacts from the Paiute and Shoshone Indians, the ranching industry of the 19th century, and the nearby Manzanar detention center from World War II.

In the 1970s, former Manzanar detainee Shiro "Shi" Nomura visited the ECM, and discovered that though it was less than ten miles from the site of Manzanar, the museum contained very little information on the confinement. For the next two decades, Nomura and his wife Mary collected items and created display panels to portray the history of the camp.[1] In recent years, "The Manzanar Exhibit," has become a permanent part of the museum's gallery and features artifacts, artwork, and photographs from the more than 10,000 detainees who were housed during World War II. Perhaps one of the most significant items is a replica of a barrack building similar to those that would have been used at Manzanar. The museum's collection of Japanese American ephemera and artifacts has been named for the couple who worked so hard to gather the items, Shi and Mary Nomura.[2]

The museum's primary location in Independence is also home to the Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden, and the ECM also oversees the Commander's House and Edwards House in Independence. The entire museum system's collection has catalogued over 15,000 artifacts and more than 27,000 historic photographs depicting life in the Eastern Sierra ranging from Death Valley to Mono Lake. In addition to the permanent exhibit and collections, the ECM regularly brings in traveling exhibits on topics ranging from Gulags to local photography.

For More Information

Salyers, Abbie Lynn. "The Internment of Memory: Forgetting and Remembering the Japanese American World War II Experience." Ph.D. dissertation, Rice University, 2009.

Eastern California Museum website: http://www.inyocounty.us/ecmsite/.

Footnotes

  1. "The Manzanar Exhibit," Eastern California Museum Informational Brochure (Independence: Eastern California Museum).
  2. Eastern California Museum website, accessed on July 8, 2015 at http://www.inyocounty.us/ecmsite/.