This past week has been spent delving into the datasets available to me in order to get a better sense of the lives of internees of the Japanese American interment camps, from entry to exit. What this means is that I’m looking at the entry data, exit data, and incident cards to glean a better understanding of life during this time. Some of the data that helps me in this endeavor are details about the first camp where a person entered the system, the assembly center they were taken to before getting to the camp, the date they first arrived at camp, other camps they may have been transferred to or from, the camp they last stayed at before exiting, their final departure date, the destination after their departure from the camp, birthdate, birthplace, and where they lived before internment (among many other details). The incident cards represent the recordkeeping system that includes details of various “offenses” that took place within the camps, and were typically only written up for people who violated rules in the camp, or in some cases, to keep records of deaths within the camp. Not every internee has incident cards, so there are silences and erasures within these archival records that might never be uncovered. But what one can do is gather up all of these details and possibly try to glean from them a narrative about the life of the internee imprisoned in these camps.
This is what I’m currently working on and I hope to share a little bit about select people in coming weeks. One of the most important things to consider is the sensitivity of these records as not all data can be publicly divulged at this point. NARA, the current steward of the records, has asked that we adhere to the restriction of 75 years when disclosing data. In other words, any records taking place after July 8, 1944 cannot be revealed. This is something I’ll have to keep in mind going forward in terms of how to best present the data in ways that both highlight and privilege the narratives and stories of the people unjustly imprisoned in these camps.