FDR Presidential Library to Present Hirahara Camp Photos

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‘Close-ups of Time Forgotten’ set for Oct. 12.

From over 2,000 photos taken and developed in a secret darkroom in a World War II Japanese American incarceration camp, this photo of a man standing on the road between the barracks in lower block 15 in Heart Mountain, Wyo. in 1944 and taken by high school-aged photographer Frank C. Hirahara is one of the most iconic photos from the Washington State University George and Frank C. Hirahara Photo Collection. (Photo Courtesy of the George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)

HYDE PARK, N.Y. — The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will present “Close-ups of Time Forgotten: The WSU Hirahara Photos Created in a Secret World War II Underground Darkroom” on Thursday, Oct. 12, at 7 p.m. (reception at 6 p.m.) in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home.

Attendees are invited to view the Roosevelt Library’s new special exhibit, “Images of Internment: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II,” free of charge following the program. This is a free public event but registration is required. Visit www.fdrlibrary.org to register.

Patti Hirahara of Anaheim is the last-born descendant of the Hirahara family in the U.S. and a third generation photographer. Her family’s unique story of how her grandfather George Hirahara built a secret photo darkroom and mini photo studio under his family’s barrack apartment 15-9-A in Heart Mountain, Wyo. and produced a collection of over 2,000 photographs is relatively unknown.

From 1943 to 1945, George and his high school-aged son Frank C. Hirahara took and processed what is considered to be the largest private collection of photos taken at this Japanese American incarceration camp.

Being in America since 1907 from Wakayama Prefecture, three generations of the Hirahara family came from Yakima, Wash., where George ran the Pacific Hotel before their wartime incarceration. Her family, while in Heart Mountain, ordered their camera equipment and supplies from the Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck mail-order catalogs.

From left: Mitzi Shimizu, Masao Sugiyama, Marlene Uyehara, and James Yamaguchi wearing geta and posing in front of the Hirahara family barrack in Block 15 in Heart Mountain in 1945. Photo by George Hirahara. (Photo Courtesy of the George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections)

In 2010, Patti Hirahara donated her grandfather’s and father’s Heart Mountain photographs to Washington State University, Frank’s alma mater. A National Park Service grant the following year funded the collection’s digitization and preservation —giving the public access to the documented weddings, cultural events, sports, funerals and more that took place under barbed wire and the watchful eyes of guards.

Since then, the collection’s images have been part of ground-breaking projects delving into the history of the Japanese American incarceration. These have included the Emmy Award-winning documentary “Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain,” co-produced by ABC7 Los Angeles Eyewitness News anchor David Ono and Emmy Award-winning TV editor and videographer Jeff MacIntyre; and “Allegiance,” a Broadway musical inspired by the personal experiences of actor George Takei.

Dr. Trevor James Bond, co-director of the Center for Digital Scholarship and Curation and associate dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections at the Washington State University Libraries, will introduce the WSU George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection and its donor, Patti Hirahara.

During this evening program, Hirahara will present and discuss some of the most iconic photos in the collection while exploring the efforts of two extraordinary men who documented their lives as Japanese Americans incarcerated at Heart Mountain. Their work is now part of the FDR Library’s “Images of Internment” exhibition.

Contact Cliff Laube at (845) 486-7745 or [email protected] with questions about the event.

Designed by FDR and dedicated on June 30, 1941, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum is the nation’s first presidential library and the only one used by a sitting president. Administered by the National Archives and Records Administration since 1941, the library preserves and makes accessible to the American people the records of FDR’s presidency. The library’s mission is to foster a deeper understanding of the lives and times of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and their continuing impact on contemporary life. This work is carried out through the library’s archives and research room, museum collections and exhibitions, innovative educational programs, and engaging public programming. For more information, call (800) 337-8474 or visit www.fdrlibrary.org.

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