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Amache Archaeology Collection

Connecting the Pieces: Dialogues on the Amache Archaeology Collection Online Exhibit 

du amache project

Since 2005, the University of Denver Anthropology Department has been involved in researching, interpreting, and preserving Amache. The keystone of the project is a collaborative summer field school, held every other year since 2008. In the field, participants practice archaeology at the site and work in the Amache Museum to preserve and interpret the tangible history of Amache.

Volunteers, both at Amache as young girls, screen soil from excavations. Courtesy of the DU Amache Project.

Conducting archaeology at a site occupied from 1942 to 1945 seems counterintuitive. Surviving government records document the forced relocation of Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes along the West Coast. Photographs depict families gathering what they could carry– hurrying to sell, destroy, or store other belongings in the week they had to prepare. People remember their expulsion and confinement, first in the assembly centers, then in War Relocation Authority incarceration facilities, like Amache.

Washing finds during a community open house at the museum. Courtesy of the DU Amache Project.

Yet even with this rich documentary and oral record, archaeology reveals the rhythms of daily life in the camps–games played to pass the time or forget, gardens planted to beautify the stark military landscape, materials repurposed to improve living conditions. These objects recovered from Amache provide a different way to encounter this experience, a physical connection to an unthinkable American episode.

amache map
Archaeologists recovered these objects during research at Amache in 2012 and 2014. War Relocation Authority Amache site plan. Courtesy of The National Archives and Records Administration. 

More information on the DU Amache Project: