A grant announced Tuesday by the National Park Service will move the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula closer to its goal of restoring two barracks dating to the early 1940s and the site’s use as an internment camp.
The $40,000 grant, awarded through the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program, will allow the museum to begin assessing what it will take to fully restore and interpret the two barracks.
The barracks originally housed Japanese resident aliens, along with Italian and German nationals from 1941 to 1944.
“We’ve worked really hard over the past decade to educate and raise awareness of the internment camp at the Fort, which includes acquiring the original Post Headquarters building, restoring the original ‘loyalty hearings’ courtroom, and creating a comprehensive exhibit on the camp’s history,” said Matt Lautzenheiser, HMFM executive director.
The first phase of the assessment will begin this summer and include a review of the buildings and their physical condition, along with their potential for reuse.
Lautzenheiser said the work will be followed by a schematic design that includes drawings and cost estimates for complete restoration.
“The addition of the two additional buildings and their interpretation will allow us to further create an authentic sense of the camp’s history and place, and we’re excited this grant will help get the ball rolling on that,” he said.
The barracks are two of nearly 30 that were used to house more than 2,200 Japanese resident aliens, Italian nationals and a small number of German nationals during the war.
The Italian men were held at the internment camp until Italy’s surrender in 1944. For the Japanese, Fort Missoula served as a stopover while they underwent an enemy alien hearing, which decided whether the men were likely to be “disloyal” to the United States.
Though none of the Japanese men were found to be disloyal, the majority were still sent from Fort Missoula to one of several war relocation camps across the country, which held more than 120,000 Japanese Americans.