Volunteers Uncover History at the Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Confinement Site

The Park County Historic Preservation Commission (PCHPC), in partnership with the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, is providing volunteers with the opportunity to participate in an archaeological excavation. The project is being conducted at the Heart Mountain National Historic Landmark site until June 25. In the first few days of the excavation, the volunteers, led by professional archaeologists, Dr. Lawrence Todd, Chairman of the PCHPC, Greg Smith of Northwest College, and Kyle Wright, an archaeologist with the Shoshone National Forest, mapped the site, located surface artifacts, and began excavating test pits. [image: DSC_0075.jpg] The State Historic Preservation Office provided a grant to the PCHPC to fund this important work at Heart Mountain. A key element of the program is public involvement in the process of uncovering the past. The public were invited, regardless of their experience, to fill a limited number of volunteer positions. Over 30 volunteers signed-up to participate over an 8 day period. “The volunteers we’ve been getting have been outstanding. They don’t have a lot of experience but are willing to learn. They ask a lot of questions and are very engaged in the process.” said Dr. Todd. “They also seem to be having a lot of fun!” Jacinta Schneider, a High School senior from Clark, Wyo., was thrilled to get the opportunity to participate. “I sincerely love archaeology and history!” Echoing that sentiment, Megan Plummer traveled all the way from Idaho Falls to participate in the fieldwork. A student at Western Washington University, Megan hopes to pursue a career in archaeology. “This is a great chance for me to get involved directly with fieldwork.” [image: DSC_0077.jpg] Gretchen Beerline, from Powell, had been to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center many times, but saw the excavation as, “an opportunity to learn about what’s in my backyard.” Cody resident Dakota Russell was also interested in the project because it allowed him to engage deeper with the former ‘War Relocation Center.’ Russell said the reason he volunteered was because, “I wanted the chance to explore the site in more depth and I thought this was a good opportunity to do that.” The grant funding the work represents a combination of public education and preservation work at the Heart Mountain National Historic Landmark site. It also includes funding for materials that will be used to preserve the Heart Mountain barrack returned to the site last year. The building was moved from Shell, Wyo., and is now the only barrack remaining on the site. The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation recently received an American Association of State and Local History Award of Merit for the barrack project. “Involving our community through hands-on, professionally supervised fieldwork provides the opportunity to connect with the place in a new way,” said Brian Liesinger, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “We are thrilled to be a part of this project and so grateful to the Park County Historic Preservation Commission, Dr. Todd, and all the volunteers who’ve come out to participate.