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Moving Forward While Looking Back

A New Digital Exhibit

Series: Exhibits

Exciting News! We at the University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives have just finished our latest digital exhibit. Moving Forward While Looking Back: Japanese Americans, Japan, Idaho and the University explores the experiences of Japanese Americans and Japan during and after World War II.

Sign at entrance of camp in Kooskia

The exhibit was initially planned to be a digital version of the physical exhibit we hosted in Fall 2020, Growing from Ground Zero. The physical exhibit discussed the destruction of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and the University of Idaho’s contribution to Hiroshima University’s reconstruction. You can read a bit more about that and the materials that were on display in our previous blog post 75 Years, Remembering the Hiroshima Bombing. Originally, Growing from Ground Zero was going to be on display throughout the spring and summer of 2020, but do to library closures and staff working primarily from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a digital version of the exhibit was planned while the future of physical exhibits was uncertain.

In order to translate the exhibit, I began trying to research the relationship between Hiroshima University and the University of Idaho. I wanted to find anything in our collections that could expound on the materials we had used for the physical exhibit. Unfortunately, I could not find any more materials regarding the interaction between the two universities, but I did find materials documenting the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II and the state and university policies that affected them. These discoveries prompted me to think harder about the digital exhibit and the story that I could tell. Ultimately, I held off on the creation of a digital version of Growing from Ground Zero (especially after we discovered I would be able to do the physical exhibit during the fall semester) and instead focused on broadening the story to tell.

The resulting exhibit Moving Forward While Looking Back contains correspondence, between educators, state government, and community members detailing their feelings on the possibility of people of Japanese ancestry being relocated to Idaho; some images and letters of incarcerees of Japanese ancestry in Idaho, images of the destruction of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, as well as the correspondence between the University of Idaho and Hiroshima University during Japan’s reconstruction. Though the digital exhibit cannot tell the whole story of those who experienced these events, it hopefully sheds some light on some of the dark times in our state and country’s history.

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