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Students invited to view prison photo exhibit

Five Germans and two Japanese died while interned in Fort Lincoln. All were initially buried in the camp cemetery. After the war, they were reburied. The memorial was carved in 1941. It has been lost since.

North Country Museum of Art's latest exhibit, Snow Country Prison, has had a lot of interest since it opened Tuesday.

Snow Country Prison: Interned in North Dakota is a photographic exhibition of an internment camp for Germans and Japanese people arrested as enemy aliens during World War II.

Ryan Loomis, director/CEO of the museum, said about 25 people came to the opening Tuesday night and he's received positive feedback.

"Everyone has been fascinated by it," he said. "It's not something most people study in history."

In 1941, the U. S. Justice Department converted the Fort Lincoln, N.D. surplus military post into an internment camp. Over its five-year operation as a camp, the Bismarck facility housed about 1,500 men of German nationality, and over 1,800 of Japanese ancestry.

Matthew Wallace, director of the Rural Arts Initiative for the North Dakota Museum of Art came to Park Rapids to set up the exhibit. He said the exhibit opened in 2003 in Bismarck and it has traveled to many communities in North Dakota. It is now being taken to communities in Minnesota.

The first group of Japanese and German men was arrested by the FBI in the days immediately after Pearl Harbor. The arrests were done under the authority of the Alien Enemies Act, and these so-called "enemy aliens" were removed from their homes, primarily on the West Coast and East Coast, and sent to camps in isolated parts of the country.

The exhibition features historic photos and murals of the camp, floor-to-ceiling cloth banners imprinted with images of people interned there and wall text drawn from the haiku poems of one of the Japanese internees, Itaru Ina, the father of Dr. Satsuki Ina, a consultant to the exhibition.

Loomis said he hopes area school groups will take the opportunity to attend the museum as an educational field trip. He said two groups from Wadena have already set up times to visit. Reimbursements of mileage and substitute teachers are available for school groups through a grant, he said.

Exhibition hours have been extended for this exhibit. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.

About 10 docents have signed up to volunteer at the exhibit and help answer questions.

Admission to the NCMA is free; donations are welcome. Call Loomis at 237-5900 to set up a classroom tour.