The evacuation of Japanese Americans during World War II is told in the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, which was honored on May 2 by the American Association of Museums.

CODY, Wyo.— The Heart Mountain Interpretive Center received a “Special Distinction” award from the American Association of Museums (AAM) for “Eloquent Presentation of Topic” on May 2.

Opened in August 2011, the 11,000-square-foot interpretive center includes permanent displays and exhibits developed to showcase how the U.S. government denied basic rights to people of Japanese ancestry following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. The exhibits are told from the perspective of the internees and highlight their pre-war lives on the West Coast, forced evacuation and travel to Heart Mountain, where they settled into their barracks and lives as prisoners.

In presenting the award, AAM noted, “Visitors are prompted to think about the relevance of the Heart Mountain experience to current events and the debate about the balance between freedom and national security. The Excellence in Exhibitions Competition chose this exhibition for an award of special distinction because of its sensitive and eloquent presentation of a difficult topic.”

The award was presented to Eric L. Muller on May 1 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Museums in Minneapolis, Minn. Muller is a Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation board member and co-chair of the 15-person program committee that oversaw the development and installation of the exhibits.

“The many dedicated individuals who devoted their talents and energy to the creation of the exhibits faced the extraordinary challenge of developing displays that would present a shameful period in American history in a way that would be memorable and thought-provoking without being preachy,” said Muller. “This award is especially gratifying, because it indicates that we were successful in accomplishing our mission.”

Now in its 24th year, the AAM’s Excellence in Exhibitions Competition recognizes exhibitions for overall excellence or for stretching the limits of exhibition content and design through innovation.