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.
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.
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.
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.
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.