Skip to main content

Architecture of Internment: The Build Up to Wartime Incarceration

February 1-28, 2019

The West Gallery is proud to present Architecture of Internment: The Build up to Wartime Incarceration.

This traveling exhibition explores how Oregonians participated in the decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants during World War II. This is not primarily about the Japanese American experience before, during or after incarceration. Rather, it is the story of how individuals, organizations, businesses and elected officials advocated for the incarceration of Oregonians of Japanese ancestry or stood by while it happened. Those who did stand up before, during and after incarceration, in small and large acts, were especially brave.

The forced removal and imprisonment of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast – two thirds U.S. citizens – was built, among other things, on wide-spread racism and a commonly held belief in the supremacy of white people, the pursuit of profit and the exploitation of labor, resentment of Japanese American success and a desire for political gain.

For the many Oregonians who wanted to see Oregonians of Japanese ancestry forcibly removed from the state forever, the onset of war with Japan and the myth of sabotage at Pearl Harbor was used to justify this mass incarceration.

In this exhibit you will see:

  • Personal letters and proclamations from Oregonians to Governor Sprague in 1941 and 1942, advocating for the exclusion and incarceration of Japanese American Oregonians.
  • The Oregon Governor’s response to these letters and proclamations revealing his changing position under political and social pressure.
  • Blueprints of potential civilian prison locations such as race tracks and fairgrounds.
  • Letters from Japanese Americans responding to this injustice.


What Graham Productions has done is more important than merely constructing an exhibit for viewing. They have constructed a story line and have captured a time in history. Most importantly they have produced something that generates emotion, and strong emotion by the viewer, and just as importantly it generates a sensitivity and a care and concern for these people who suffered. – Matt Stringer, Four Rivers Cultural Center, Ontario, Oregon