Tamekichi Carl Hibino painted the Owens Valley mural in 1943, while incarcerated in Manzanar. (Photo by Ansel Adams, courtesy Library of Congress)

Nearly two decades before Congress established Manzanar National Historic Site, Eastern California Museum (ECM) was collaborating with Japanese American and local communities to preserve Manzanar artifacts and stories.

A visit to ECM remains a unique opportunity to explore history through artifacts, artworks and photos, thereby enhancing a visit to Manzanar itself. The partnership between ECM and the National Park Service (NPS) facilitates collaboration and preservation, benefiting both sites and larger communities. A recent example is the NPS-funded conservation of a large three-panel mural of the Owens Valley, along with six other paintings from ECM’s collections.

At 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, ECM and the NPS will unveil the large three-panel mural by Tamekichi Carl Hibino. This is believed to be the first public display of the painting since 1945. Friends of the Eastern California Museum will provide refreshments. Manzanar History Association will premiere a new postcard featuring a 1943 Ansel Adams photo of Hibino painting the mural.

Hibino emigrated from Japan in 1903 and worked as a farmer, storekeeper, and dry cleaner in Arizona and Texas. During the Depression, he lost his business and moved to Los Angeles. In 1942, Hibino, along with his wife and two daughters, was forced to move to Manzanar, where he eventually took a job as an artist for the camp’s Visual Education Museum.

“We are excited to share the unveiling with the public and especially with Inyo County residents,” Manzanar Superintendent Bernadette Johnson said. “It is a fitting celebration as Inyo County celebrates its sesquicentennial and the National Park Service celebrates its centennial.

“Japanese Americans created this mural and many other creative works while they were incarcerated in Manzanar more than 70 years ago. I appreciate ECM’s commitment to partnering with us to preserve and showcase this beautiful mural depicting our beloved Owens Valley.”

Eastern California Museum Director Jon Klusmire said, “We are extremely appreciative of the good working relationship that has always existed between the Eastern California Museum and Manzanar National Historic Site. This collaborative project is a prime example of how our two institutions partner to achieve our common goals of preserving and interpreting the history of our region and bringing the story of Manzanar to life.”

All are welcome to attend the unveiling. Manzanar is located at 5001 Hwy. 395, six miles south of Independence. For more information, call ECM at (760) 878-0258. ECM’s website is www.inyocounty.us/ecmsite. Both Eastern California Museum and Manzanar National Historic Site have Facebook pages.

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