UI launches digital database of WWII internment camp items

Posted at 1:06 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 15:06:40-05

An online database –- reported to be the first of its kind -– is allowing visitors the chance to explore history in a digitally hands-on way.

Through a collaboration between the Northwest Knowledge Network and the UI Library, University of Idaho professor Stacey Camp has created a digital repository of archaeological items discovered from the World War II internment camp in Kooskia, Idaho.

Camp, an associate professor of anthropology and director of the Alfred W. Bowers Laboratory of Anthropology, was awarded a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council to spend the last year creating the online system.

Utilizing anthropology students from UI’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Camp and her team cataloged approximately 400 items and entered detailed information about these items in the database.

“Thanks to the support of the Idaho Humanities Council, I am able to share the results of these publicly-funded archaeological digs with the general public,” Camp said. “My goal was to bring these items into the public sphere, so that everyone has access to these pieces of Idaho’s history.”

The Kooskia Internment Camp imprisoned a predominantly-Japanese immigrant population between 1943 and 1945.

Camp led excavations with teams of University of Idaho students at the site in 2010 and 2013, and her work was featured in international media including Fuji News, Al Jazeera America, and the Huffington Post.

One group with a strong interest in making this data easily available is descendants of the internees. The artifacts, archival data, photographs and videos are a glimpse into life at the camp, and into their family members’ lives.

Camp hopes to continue work on the database to include archaeological data from other Japanese and World War II internment camps -- to understand the differences in available resources at these prisons and differences in the way prisoners coped with forced imprisonment.

“This database will give scholars and the public immediate access to archaeological data as it is being digitized and cataloged,” Camp stated. “It will allow us to see how goods and resources, such as medicine, food and clothing, were distributed across different types of World War II incarceration facilities. By incorporating additional data sets from other World War II internment camps, we hope to answer questions about these people’s experiences, such as if all prisoners were treated equally, or were certain types of prisoners given better goods and resources?”

The database can be accessed at