The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation (HMWF) is formed from members of previous organizations, former incarcerees, and locals vested in the future of telling the story of Heart Mountain.
The HMWF receives 501(c) (3) status and a Board of Directors with 14 members is elected.
Wyoming State Historical Site
Fifty acres of the former relocation camp are purchased and designated as the site for the Interpretive Center, and it receives designation as a Wyoming State Historical Site. The Bureau of Reclamation completes stabilization work of the original hospital buildings.
Honor Roll Dedication
An Interpretive Planning Concept Committee is formed to help design the Interpretive Center’s exhibits, and a timetable for the completion of the Center is confirmed. In July, an Honor Roll dedication ceremony is held for the memorial’s newly replaced signboard.
Memorial Walking Trail
The HMWF holds a dedication ceremony for the completed Setsuko Saito Higuchi Memorial Walking Tour.
National Historic Landmark
The National Park Service designates the site as a National Historic Landmark.
In July, architects complete construction of the Interpretive Center and the HMWF celebrates its Grand Opening in August.
The Center receives an Excellence in Exhibitions Award from the American Association of Museums and an Interior Exhibit Award from the National Association of Interpretation. The Memory and Justice Endowment Fund is established and the James O. Ito Memorial Garden project also begins.
Boiler House Chimney
The repair and stabilization of the boiler house chimney is completed, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in July. The local Jolovich family pledges to donate the Heart Mountain root cellar. HMWF receives a grant to hire its first archivist.
The HMWF receives two grants: to preserve the root cellar and to develop an All Camps Consortium.
A Barrack Returned
An original barrack, located in Shell, Wyoming, is saved from demolition and transported back to Heart Mountain.
Root Cellar Excavation
The HMWF receives a Leadership in History award from the American Association for State and Local History for the 2015 barrack rescue project. The HMWF conducts archaeological excavation on the land containing the root cellar.
One of the Foundation’s first projects was the restoration of the Honor Roll bearing the names of over 800 men and women who served in the U.S. military, including two recipients of the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor. A replica of the Honor Roll was completed in 2003.
In 2005, a Walking Tour of the site was dedicated to the memory of Setsuko Saito Higuchi, one of a small but determined group of former Heart Mountain internees who envisioned an educational facility that would preserve and teach the lessons embodied in the wartime experience of the people confined there during World War II. At capacity, 10,767 persons of Japanese ancestry occupied the internment camp, but as many as 14,000 were held at Heart Mountain during the three years it was in operation.
In 2007, the Wyoming site (located between the towns of Powell and Cody) was designated as a National Historical Landmark. Simultaneously, special recognition was accorded one of Heart Mountain’s most well known internees, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Commerce Norman Y. Mineta.
In August of 2011, the HMWF opened the doors of its Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, a world-class museum dedicated to passing on the Heart Mountain story to future generations. From Wyoming, John Collins, Dave Reetz, Pat Wolfe, Ann Noble, and United States Senator Alan Simpson (retired), former internees and others supported and helped organize the ambitious endeavor. Secretary Mineta was also among the project’s early supporters.
Former Foundation president Dave Reetz supervised construction of the Center which provides an overview of the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans, including the background history of anti-Asian prejudice in America and the factors leading to their enforced relocation and confinement. Program Committee members and Co-Chairs, University of North Carolina law professor Eric Muller and Denver educator Carolyn Takeshita worked to ensure that special emphasis was given to the experience of incarceration, the diverse personal responses of Japanese Americans to their imprisonment, constitutional issues, violations of civil liberties and civil rights, and the broader issues of race and social justice in America. Funding for the $5.3 million project was overseen by HMWF Vice-Chair, Douglas Nelson and included contributions from individual donors, major government and foundation grants, and corporate gifts.
Meanwhile, the monumental task of collecting, preserving, and cataloguing the Foundation’s burgeoning collection of artifacts continues to be overseen by Acting Curator, LaDonna Zall, with assistance from volunteers and fellow HMWF board member Rick Ewig. Early assistance was also provided by former board members Peggy and Mike Fuson.
Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki and Farallon Films produced an introductory film that is shown to Interpretive Center visitors, while Split Rock Studios of Minnesota designed and fabricated the exhibits.