A Moab Prison Camp: Japanese American Incarceration in Grand County

A Moab Prison Camp: Japanese American Incarceration in Grand County introduces the local and national story of Japanese American incarceration during WWII. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the wartime incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, a majority of whom were US Citizens, in detention facilities across the country. The Moab Isolation Center, located north of Moab at Dalton Wells, played a brief but significant role in the web of Japanese American incarceration facilities: a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp was transformed into a temporary prison camp for so-called “troublemakers” from other camps. In this exhibit, a tale of injustice and resilience unfolds via stories and objects, introducing the national context with the Smithsonian’s Righting a Wrong poster exhibition and research conducted by Utah State Parks.

"Troublemaking" is resistance.

This exhibit unpacks the nuanced terminology used during that era and following, inviting visitors to confront the usage of words like "relocation" versus "incarceration" and wrestle with the gravity of terms such as "concentration camp." Through compelling narratives curated collaboratively with descendants and partners, A Moab Prison Camp illuminates the resilience and resistance exhibited by those imprisoned in Moab. It offers a broader exploration of the Japanese-American experience during this tumultuous period in US history.

To support the curation of exhibitions and future programming by the Moab Museum, please consider donating and/or becoming a member.

Book Club: Interpreting Japanese American Incarceration

Museums present stories, information, or artifacts, and communities help interpret why it matters. As the Moab Museum shares stories from the Moab Isolation Center at Dalton Wells, we invite our community to deepen our collective understanding of Japanese American incarceration history and help curate a pop-up display by learning stories from Japanese American survivors and descendants. Many firsthand accounts, documentaries, and podcasts share stories from survivors of incarceration and their descendants. Read up - and let us and the Moab community know what you think about these stories by participating in the Interpreting Japanese American Incarceration Book Club.

How it works: 

  1. Read/watch/or listen to any of the books/films/podcasts from the Book Club list.
  2. Write a reflection, responding to the question: why does this history matter to Moabites, Americans, and the world today? You can drop off or write a written response in the form below, or email us a note or voice memo to Be sure to include your name - and let us know what you read, watched, or listened to from the list!

The Museum will develop community responses into the exhibit space during the last weeks of the exhibition.

Books and Literature

  1. They Called Us Enemy by George Takei: award-winning graphic memoir by actor/author/activist George Takei about his incarceration experience
  2. In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality by Eileen H. Tamura: biography of Joseph Kurihara, who was incarcerated at the Moab Isolation Center
  3. Photographs of Manzanar by Ansel Adams: a striking series of photographs document daily life at Manzanar
  4. Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston: a vivid memoir of coming to age in an incarceration camp
  5. Enduring Conviction: Fred Korematsu and his Quest for Justice by Lorraine K. Bannai: a remarkable story of one Japanese American man's resistance
  6. Citizen 13660 by Miné Okubo: a brilliant graphic memoir, poignantly chronicling wartime incarceration 
  7. Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment edited by Kimi Hill: a deeply moving collection of the artistic works of Chiura Obata, incarcerated in Topaz, Utah
  8. Desert Exile: The Uprooting of a Japanese American Family by Yoshiko Uchida: the story of one family incarcerated in Topaz, Utah
  9. Only What We Could Carry edited by Lawson Fusao Inada: a collection of reminiscences, letters, stories, poems, and art 
  10. I Call to Remembrance: Toyo Suyemoto’s Years of Internment edited by Susan B. Richardson: an illuminating and moving memoir
  11. Displacement by Kiku Hughes: a riveting and inspirational graphic novel about a teen learning about wartime incarceration history
  12. Facing the Mountain: An Inspiring Story of Japanese American Patriots in World War II by Daniel James Brown: a gripping account of the journeys of three Japanese American men who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team
  13. Under the Broken Sky by Mariko Nagai: a breathtaking, poetic account of hope and resilience 
  14. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson: a bestselling novel, this fictional story explores themes of fairness and forgiveness in the wake of wartime incarceration
  15. Children of Manzanar edited by Heather C. Lindquist: photographs and remembrances record the stories of some of the youngest residents of Manzanar
  16. Seen and Unseen by Elizabeth Partridge: blending visuals and clear, moving text, this account of Manzanar has been called "ingenious" by New York Times reviewers
  17. Properties of Thirst by Marianne Wiggins: this fictional novel explores the time period of WW2 and Japanese American incarceration via families in Owens Valley, CA
  18. Kiyo's Story by Kiyo Sato: a moving memoir of a family's perseverance through incarceration at Poston

For young readers and their families: A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, Baseball Saved Us, Write to Me, The Bracelet, and Citizen USA.

Books are available at Grand County Public Library and Back of Beyond Books.

Films (Recommendations from DENSHO)

  1. An American Contradiction (2012, 13 minutes)
  2. The Art of Gaman: The Story Behind the Objects (2010, 20 minutes)
  3. California’s Gold with Huell Howser
  4. Colorado Experience: Amache (2013, 56/28 minutes)
  5. Dave Tatsuno: Movies and Memories (2006, 57 minutes)
  6. From Hawaii to the Holocaust (1993, 53 minutes)
  7. Manzanar: Never Again (2008, 14 minutes)
  8. The Merced Assembly Center: Injustice Immortalized (2012, 53 minutes)
  9. Pilgrimage (2003, 22 minutes)
  10. Shiro Kashino: An American Hero (2015, 21 minutes)

This book and film list has been developed from recommendations of Densho, and also includes selections from Manzanar, Minidoka, and Topaz historic sites. Have another resource we should add to this book list? Let us know!



Contents of this exhibit have been developed in collaboration with Utah State Parks, descendents of incarcerees, and in consultation with organizations and historic sites dedicated to the preservation and sharing of Japanese American history. Thank you to staff from the Minidoka National Historic Site, Friends of Minidoka, Manzanar National Historic Site, and Topaz Museum for sharing expertise, guided tours of historic sites, and/or consultation. The Moab Museum is also grateful for the expertise and guiding primary resources made available via Densho as well as the Japanese American National Museum. The research records of Lloyd Pierson and Bruce Louthan have been invaluable. Programmatic collaborators include Utah Historical Society, Utah State Parks, Dr. Koji Lau-Ozawa, Manzanar National Historic Site, and Topaz Museum. Sharing stories is a collaborative effort: thank you for being a part of it.

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II was developed by the National Museum of American History and adapted by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. The traveling exhibition and poster exhibition are supported by a grant from the Asian Pacific American Initiatives Pool, administered by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, the Terasaki Family Foundation, and C. L. Ehn and Ginger Lew.

In the news: hear what the Times-Independent and Moab Sun News have to share about our new exhibition.