A view of the reconstructed barracks at Block 14. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
A view of the reconstructed barracks at Block 14. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The public is invited to join National Park Service staff in historic preservation work at Manzanar from July 2 to 6.

Work will focus on Block 14, the Historic Site’s “demonstration block” where visitors can better see and experience what a typical residential block at Manzanar was like. To date, Block 14 features two reconstructed barracks and a mess hall.

The Japanese Americans imprisoned at Manzanar did all of the jobs needed to keep a small “city” like Manzanar functioning, but during their free time they took care of their families, tended “victory gardens,” built Japanese gardens, attended church services, took classes, and played sports. The July project will explore two of the ways people passed leisure time at Manzanar, playing basketball and playing cards.

Under the direction of archeologists Jeff Burton, Laura Ng, and Paul Hoornbeek and preservation specialist Dave Goto, volunteers will excavate two barracks basements and clear and rebuild a basketball court.

An oral history provides some details about one of the basements — a former internee built it when he was a teenager at Manzanar, to escape the heat. There, he used to play pinochle with his friends.

“From historic photographs, we know the basketball court surface was only dirt; we will regrade it to the original level, using soil changes, compaction, and perhaps remnant artifacts as our guide,” said a Manzanar spokesperson. “We will also install posts and backboards, build a backstop fence, rebuild a retaining wall, and restore rock alignments in their historic locations. All of the restoration work will be guided by archeological evidence and historic photographs.”

Volunteers will be using shovels and small hand tools, screening sediments to retrieve artifacts, taking notes and photographs, using wheelbarrows, mixing concrete for small repairs, resetting rocks to reconstruct landscape features, and cutting and loading brush.

They will paint the basketball backboards and possibly a few rocks encircling a fire hydrant. Depending on the number of artifacts recovered, a day or two may also be spent cleaning and recording artifacts.

For the five-day project, up to 20 volunteers a day can be accommodated. Volunteers must be at least 15 years old and be able to work outdoors. Most of the work is physically demanding, but there are usually a variety of tasks each day, to suit different interests and energy levels. Previous experience is helpful, but all that is needed is an interest in history and a willingness to get dirty.

Volunteers must sign up in advance and may work any number of days or hours, but a full day or multiple days are preferred. Work will be conducted regardless of weather, so come prepared, bring water, lunch, sunscreen, a hat, and work gloves.

So far, no one has been stung by bees, but if you are allergic bring your EpiPen.

Volunteers will meet each day at 7:30 a.m. on the north side of the visitor center and work until 3:30 p.m.

To sign up, email jeff_burton@nps.gov.

Manzanar National Historic Site is located at 5001 Hwy. 395, six miles south of Independence. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/manz or call (760) 878-2194.

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