Mapping Movement: Japanese-Americans and World War II/Internment

My final project is a series of maps on Google Mymaps that maps the movement of three Japanese-Americans as they experienced World War II and internment in unique ways. The goal of this project is to nuance the modern understanding of internment. There was no singular path that Japanese-Americans took or experience of the injustice and opportunity of the twentieth century. I chose this topic because Asian-Americans in general are often overlooked or handled only briefly by American students and I wanted to bring more attention this significant portion of the population during this formative time.


For this project I created a WordPress blog which contains general background information about the project and about Japanese-Americans. From this blog there are links available to the map. Once on the map users are able to choose which “layer” of the map to view, each layer being the map of one person’s movement, before, during, and after the war. Each plot point on the map contains important information about how and why that person was in that place at the time. These maps also include insights into the minds of those portrayed, highlighting racial identity issues. The maps proceed chronologically and are also color coded to help provide the macro-perspective of the movement that took place.


While working on this project I ran into one main issue. How to present all the necessary information while maintaining an intuitive layout and without getting bogged down in text. Thanks to Google Mymaps I was able to address the first problem as most potential audience members will have familiarity with Google Maps and understand how to navigate the points. In order to address the second issue I had to keep my text blocks as sparse as possible while still conveying the vital information. Building the WordPress blog helped with this problem as I was able to include generalized information in a single place that helped provide context for each person’s experiences.


This project gave me the chance to further pursue my interests regarding race and immigration in the United States. It stemmed from my undergraduate capstone project in which I examined the motivations of Japanese-Americans that volunteered for the US Army. Through this project I was able to further consider the immigrant experience and the role that race plays in domestic relations in the United States. My biggest takeaways from this project are the importance of the digital medium as a means to both make history more accessible/interactive, but also to consider non-traditional mediums (not solely text) when conducting research and creating projects.


During the poster session I received a wonderful idea that I could transform this project into a crowd-sourced project, enabling friends and family of those affected by internment to map the journeys of those they knew. If I revisit this project or take any inspiration for the future from it I intend to do just that, create a centralized database in which many different people are able to collaborate and share stories. The result would be huge project that demonstrates the varied experiences of Japanese-Americans during this time, further complicating and benefitting our understanding of history.

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