Collections in Calisphere

All of the items on Calisphere are organized into collections. Collections bring context to images, documents, videos, and audio recordings. Some collections represent a particular topic or format, some have items created by the same person, and some showcase an institution’s special project or initiative. Use the tabs below to explore the hundreds of collections on Calisphere.

Grandfather and grandchildren awaiting evacuation bus

Looking for JARDA and other themed collections?

The Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive (JARDA), California Cultures, and California History themed collections are currently still hosted on the old Calisphere site.

Click the “Themed Collections” tab below to browse them before making the jump.

The Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives (JARDA) page is still hosted on the old Calisphere site. We encourage you to continue your exploration there. Main JARDA Page
Family at Manzanar


The images in this topic show the faces of Japanese Americans before, during, and after incarceration. Most of the photographs were taken by War Relocation Authority (WRA) photographers for publicity purposes and tend to show people who are smiling or stoic. The paintings by internee artists Estelle Ishigo and Henry Sugimoto suggest a more emotional and somber mood.

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Japanese train riders holding streamers with onlookers


From March 1942 to 1946, the US War Relocation Authority (WRA) had jurisdiction over the Japanese and Japanese Americans evacuated from their homes in California, Oregon, and Washington. The WRA photographs document the places that played a role in evacuation, relocation, incarceration, and resettlement — as the government wished to present them. Few, for example, show the barbed wire fences and guards that kept internees imprisoned. Although photographer Dorothea Lange also worked for the WRA, her images manage to suggest a more somber personal experience. In contrast, the paintings by internees portray the camps as experienced by the people who lived there.

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Internment camp sign with printed rules

Daily Life

With thousands of residents, the internment camps inevitably became communities where families carried on with the details of daily life: adults worked, children went to school. This topic illustrates much of the daily life of internees, including camp administration, sleeping/eating/personal care, work, social life, study, events, relocation, and resettlement. The images show daily life as the government portrayed it in "publicity" photographs taken by government photographers, and through the art and camera lenses of the internees who lived it.

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Watercolor of a man sketching Camp Jerome

Personal Experiences

The images in this topic were created by men, women, and youth during their incarceration in relocation camps. Artists expressed the internal experience of camp life in paintings and drawings. Writings — including memoirs, illustrated diaries, scrapbooks, and letters home — reflect the daily struggle of men, women, and children trying to live "normal" lives in remote, guarded camps behind barbed wire. These personal creations express experiences that are often more emotionally complex than the official government photographs. The images in this topic depict reality through the eyes of Japanese Americans, reflecting a mix of emotions, including anger, uncertainty, and hope.

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