The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has received a 2021 Japanese American Confinement grant  for $533,000 to obtain and restore two buildings that once housed Japanese Americans during World War II.

Executive Director Matt Lautzenheizer said the museum has been able to obtain not just one, but two such buildings.

“Over the last few years, we've actually been able to acquire two original interment barracks that were used at Fort Missoula during World War II,” said Lautzenheiser. “One of those was at the DNRC (Department of Natural Resources and Conservation)  on Spurgin Road and that was an original barrack and then the other one was originally at the Fort, but it was moved to the Missoula County Fairgrounds.”

Lautzenheizer described the renovations that will be made to the  first building.

“One building will be fully restored both inside and out and staged to look as it would have when the Japanese and Italian internees were being held at Fort Missoula,” he said. “Our hope with that is to create an immersive space for our visitors where they can feel like they're literally stepping back in time and seeing what the living conditions would have been for those internees here at Fort Missoula,”

Lautzenheiser also described the changes that will be made to the second barracks.

“The other barracks building be reconstructed and restored so that it is able to accommodate state of the art collection storage,” he said. “This is a really huge need we have as a museum, in that our collection has now grown to roughly 50,000 objects and we are constantly running out of climate controlled space to make sure that we're preserving those pieces of that community's history. So the second barracks building will be fully restored on the exterior, and the interior will be a full climate controlled collection space for us.”

Lautzenheizer said the museum is currently open, but for limited hours, and that will change after Memorial Day.

“We're currently open from noon to 4pm from Sunday through Friday and closed on Saturdays, but beginning June 1 will be open our full summer hours which are 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission charges are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for kids, but as always, as a publicly funded museum through Missoula county taxpayer dollars, we are always free to Missoula county residents.”

Lautzenheiser said the new additions will help to honor the 2,200 men of Japanese and Italian descent who were wrongly imprisoned at Fort Missoula during the war.


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