Celebrating 20 Years: the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
The Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre is a Parks Canada National Historic Site located in New Denver, BC, and is dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of the internment experiences of over 22,000 Nikkei during the Second World War.
June 23, 2014 officially marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre (NIMC). Spearheaded in the early 1990s by the late Mrs. Chie Kamegaya, a former teacher, Kaslo internee and respected community elder, this important community project involved the collective efforts of the New Denver Kyowakai Society, the greater Nikkei community, the Village of New Denver, grant support, generous donations, and countess volunteer hours.
The NIMC proudly opened its doors to the public in the summer of 1994 with a community celebration that brought together Nikkei from across the nation for a truly momentous event in Canadian history.
In the years to follow, the NIMC was successfully managed by the Kyowakai Society which drew upon a dedicated group of volunteers and a few paid staff to handle the multitude of tasks required to operate the facility.
Eleanor Quirk, a long-time Centre neighbour and supporter was kind enough to share one particular recollection from the early years – the sight of slighty-statured yet vivacious Nikkei women, many whom were considered to be in their seniors years, walking down the main street to gather for yet another garden weeding party at the NIMC. These garden sessions were usually accompanied by roaring laughter, which could be heard echoing throughout the Centre grounds.
The Heiwa Teien (Peace Garden), designed as the final landscape project of Tomomichi “Roy” Sumi, a former Rosebery internee and founder of the Vancouver Japanese Gardener’s Association, was a source of pride for many who tended to it, and to this day remains an integral feature, adding tranquility and harmony to the site.
Playing host to educational tours for schools and bus groups, the Centre has also seen many visitors from far and wide. A regular fixture of the NIMC, Nobuyoshi “Nobby” Hayashi was the seasoned tour guide whose talent for engaging and educating left many with such an impact that even in retirement, is continually requested and reminisced about by repeat museum goers.
In most recent years, the regular operation of the NIMC have been assumed by the Village of New Denver. Acknowledging the necessity for longterm provisions, the Society agreed from the outset that when their aging membership and declining capacity reached a point, the care of the NIMC would fall to the Village. The Kyowakai Society however, continue to provide an important advisory role regarding NIMC matters.
In 2013, the Village of New Denver implemented a NIMC manager to oversee the day-to-day operations of the site. With a focus on increasing the museum’s profile and developing a sustainable operational foundation, assessments and projects are on the horizon.
This year, we aim to continue on with the work that began in 2013, and look forward to welcoming you to our 20th anniversary taking place on August 9, 2014. The celebration will honour the legacy of the Kyowakai Society and thank all of those people who have helped the NIMC throughout the years.
Please stay tuned for event details!
Greetings from New Denver!
In January 2013, the Village of New Denver brought Momoko Ito on board as the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre’s (NIMC) new operations manager. Momoko brings her previous experience with arts administration and student collections assistant work with both the Nikkei National Museum and the NIMC to this new position.
What a year 2013 has been! With a busy operational season filled with garden restorations, school visits, Internment Bus Tours from Vancouver and Lethbridge, summer students, digitization projects, community outreach events, and emergency repairs to the fire suppression system to boot, 2013 has been a very eventful year for the NIMC filled with intense challenges and positive developments.
With the excitement centered around our 20th anniversary, the focus of 2014 will be on planning and preparing for the community celebrations.
Another important task on the agenda is to develop a strategic plan for the continued operation of the Centre. As the NIMC continues to undergo a major transitional period, the input and support of the Nikkei community will be an integral part of ensuring the future of the NIMC. Opportunities for community engagement will be posted as we get underway.
On a personal note, I am so thrilled to return to New Denver. Relocating from Vancouver, a city with a population of over half a million, to a village of 550 residents has been such a humbling experience. Although familiar with the NIMC and New Denver, life in the West Kootenays has been full of surprises. Just last week I crossed paths with a wild turkey…on the street! But all that aside, it has truly been a honour to have the opportunity to be involved with this incredible National Historic Site. In the coming year, I look forward to facilitating positive changes within in the NIMC and to continue developing strong ties with both the local and Nikkei community.
Best wishes to you all in 2014.
The planning for the NIMC’s 20th anniversary has now begun, but there are many opportunities to get involved through donations, sponsorships, and by volunteering your many skills and talents! For more information about the event or if you would like to lend your support, please contact Momoko Ito at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-358-2316.
New Denver represents the many internment and road camps that have long disappeared. She must continue to stand as a sacred memory of those dark years but also as a testament of our community’s indomitable spirit. I appeal to the readers of The Bulletin to make a financial donation to ensure that the NIMC will continue to stand as an important benchmark in the history of Canadian civil and human rights. – Ken Noma, President, National Association of Japanese Canadians
Donate to the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
Download this PDF and send it with your payment to:
Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre
PO Box 40
New Denver, BC
Note: the form can be filled out on your computer and printed out or it can be printed out and filled out by hand.