Lecture to focus on people behind Ansel Adams images
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Bill Tennent/Jefferson County Historical Society
Hiroko Dennis, Carl Nomura and Chris Ota, from left, cut a ribbon, opening the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History in Port Townsend on Saturday.

By Leah Leach
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Ansel Adams photographs provide the images.

Clarence Moriwaki, president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial Association, will offer the background.

Moriwaki will speak at the Jefferson County Historical Society First Friday Lecture in the Port Townsend City Council chambers, 250 Madison St., at 7 p.m. Friday.

His talk will complement the exhibit “Ansel Adams: A Portrait of Manzanar,” which will run through Aug. 18 at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History at 540 Water St., Port Townsend.

Admission will be by donation, which support programs of the historical society.

The lecture and the exhibit explore the prejudices and fears that led the U.S. government to confine American citizens and legal immigrants of Japanese ethnicity in relocation centers such as Manzanar in California during World War II.

The photo exhibit opened with a ribbon-cutting on Saturday.

The exhibit, created by the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and winner of a Washington Museum Association Award of Excellence, is composed mostly of black-and-white photographs taken in late 1943 by the legendary American photographer, who died in 1984.

Cutting the ribbon for the exhibit Saturday were three Japanese-Americans living in Port Townsend, none of whom were interned in Manzanar, but who were all touched by the massive relocation, said Bill Tennent, director of the Jefferson County Historical Society.

They were Carl Nomura, a retired physicist; Chris Ota, a Realtor for Windermere; and Hiroko Dennis, a retired dance instructor.

“Their families were interned in camps,” Tennent said, “but they were not from Jefferson County. They have since moved here.”

Five families from Jefferson County were taken away, Tennent said.

“So far as I know, there are no descendents of those families still living in Jefferson County,” he said.

When Moriwaki speaks, he and those listening to him will be surrounded by a companion exhibit in the Port Townsend City Council chamber.

The exhibit, which was installed last week, documents the experience of the 27 Japanese-Americans removed from Jefferson County.

“Those photographs will be all around the people,” Tennent said.

The display has 12 framed panels of newspaper clippings and photographs “which tell the story from the time they were informed they needed to leave until the time they returned,” he said.

He added: “It really speaks for itself without having to interpret in any way.”

Moriwaki will focus on Bainbridge Island and the 275 people — many of them farmers — taken away from their homes there, Tennent said.

“The Japanese-Americans taken from Bainbridge were the first Americans to be relocated,” Tennent said.

The Manzanar Relocation Center in California was the first internment camp for Bainbridge Islanders, he added.

The relocation order was posted on Bainbridge Island on March 24, 1942 and on March 30 of that year about 275 ethic-Japanese residents were sent to Manzanar.

By the time Adams began his project, the Bainbridge internees had been moved to Minidoka, Idaho, where they were joined later by people from Jefferson County, Tennent said.

Manzanar operated between April 1942 and November 1945 and held more than 10,000 people at its peak.

“When Ansel Adams went to Manzanar, the Bainbridge people were already gone,” Tennent said.

“The photos that he took tell the story of the place where they lived but they were no longer there,” he added.

“It's the story of what life was like in the camp.”

Moriwaki “has a wealth of knowledge about the families from Bainbridge Island,” Tennent said.

Moriwaki has previously served as the CEO of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington, public relations manager for the Portland Rose Festival, media specialist for Sound Transit, board member of the ACLU of Washington, and deputy communications director for the Office of the Governor.

His awards include the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Award presented by the National Parks Conservation Association to the outstanding conservationist of the year and the Kitsap County Human Rights Commission Wall of Fame Award for outstanding leadership.

On Friday he will show a video and talk about Manzanar and the creation of the Japanese-American Exclusion Memorial on Bainbridge Island.

Among the stories he tells may be some about the ways in which the neighbors of those who had been relocated welcomed them back.

“The interesting thing about Bainbridge Island and Jefferson County also is that most of people taken away made arrangements with their neighbors to take care of land,” Tennent said.

In one case, Tennent said, a Japanese-American family sold its land to a neighbor for $1.

“The neighbor took care of it for them and when they returned, he sold it back to them for a dollar,” Tennent said.

For more information about the exhibit and lecture, see www.jchsmuseum.org/.

Managing Editor/News Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3531 or at leah.leach@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 29. 2012 6:15PM
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