Research Frontiers Rowher

Uploaded by UniversityArkansas on 02.11.2012

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States government uprooted more
than 120,000 Japanese Americans and relocated them to internment camps around the country.
Seven decades later, the University of Arkansas is helping reveal the story of one camp Rohwer
a small farming community in Southeast Arkansas. Kimball Erdman - Because of the significance
of the event where over 100,000 people...were taken from their homes and the Pacific west
and relocated to these camps for several years, it really tells a very important story of
America's past. Between 1942 and 1945, more than 10,000 internees
passed through Rohwer. Crowded barracks and buildings surrounded by barbed wire fences
and machine gun watch towers stretched across 500 acres.
Caitlin Stevens - It's hard to imagine it now. You go to the site; it's a small cemetery,
25 gravestones in the middle of agriculture. And you see a smoke stack in the distance.
You see a little bit of barbed wire near the railroad tracks and you have now idea to comprehend
the size and the scope that it once was. Kimball Erdman - The site is also in great
danger right now in terms of the monuments and their condition and failure. Some of them
could actually collapse if intervention is not taken so that's one of the great things
about the grant that we're able to help secure is that intervention is now being taken for
those monuments order to retain them. Kimball Erdman studies and preserves culturally
significant landscapes. He and his students use new technologies to survey Rohwer.
Kimball Erdman - One of the things that we definitely tried to do was in this project
was combine the digital technologies that were offered through the Center for Advanced
Spatial Technologies, CAST here on campus into this process of documenting the landscape.
CAST could offer advanced methods and tools ideal for documenting Rohwer with the greatest
detail. Caitlin Stevens - We were approached by the
professor and we just thought that there were some high density survey instruments that
we could use. The things that we thought of to begin with were GPS to help identify and
locate things on the site and then also laser scanning to give a greater amount of detail
than they might be able to collect on site during the short time they had.
Robyn Dennis - There's just this whole series of technologies that allow us to better document
and better understand some of the features of the site.
In January 2012, researchers and students hauled a half million dollars' worth of equipment
to Rohwer then spent four months back in the lab completing the site's documentation but
they could only speculate on what might be Rohwer's future.
Kimball Erdman - Let's rank these in terms of priority. In terms of who you think is
the most important ???? Student - Survivors, people who actually spend
time or their families ???? Kimball Erdman - We differed as a class as
to what the right treatment would be and the two sides that we took as a class were rehabilitation,
which is basically repurposing the site for present use. And the other side that was expressed
was restoration. Patrick Lower - It's not restoring to a certain
period, it's changing the site to meet a specific set of guidelines, what you want the site
to do, not what it did or what it was for. If you were going to rehabilitate it you'd
make it more to your needs but still keep all the character and defining features of
the site. Kimball Erdman - In my own professional opinion
I lean towards the restoration because it would help best capture the character of the
original designers of the memorial and yet it would still be an appropriate design for
people to come and visit. Robyn Dennis - One of the things that I would
really like to see this develop into is a 3D visualization of how the camp would have
appeared at the time. How much more real it would become to you if you could walk through
the site and click virtually and click on a building and understand what it was and
how the people lived there. Caitlin Stevens - I'd like to see just the
growing awareness of what Rohwer was and what it continues to be.
An effort that the University of Arkansas hopes to carry on now that few internees survive.
Kimball Erdman - Many of those early efforts were led by internees and now that that voice
is leaving the work is moving forward unfortunately without them but I think they'd be pleased
at least with the way in which it's beginning to receive more and more attention and finally
some funding in order to make sure that this place is preserved.