2019 Recipients


 Aurora Challenge Grant Recipient: Jeffrey Burton


I am extremely grateful to the Aurora Foundation: their grant will allow me to fulfill my dream of attending the Japanese Garden Intensive Seminar Plus in Kyoto, which will be invaluable in my work at Manzanar, a former World War II Japanese American internment camp in California. Through this seminar I will learn more about the history, design theory, landscape ecology, and maintenance of Japanese gardens. I will have the opportunity to do maintenance work in historic gardens. I will also have the opportunity to give a presentation on Manzanar’s World-War-II Japanese gardens at an international symposium and meet specialists who work to uncover and restore Japanese gardens in Japan.


Conditions at Manzanar were difficult, and many of the Japanese Americans incarcerated there created Japanese gardens to provide relief for their families and fellow prisoners amid the grim surroundings.  The gardens stand out as symbols of beauty and the resilience of the human spirit, and show that the internees embraced their Japanese heritage even in the face of persecution, even when the dominant American culture had defined “Japanese” as something to be afraid of, and ashamed of. The experience made possible by the Aurora Foundation grant will help me interpret and restore the Japanese gardens at Manzanar so they can fulfil their potential to help visitors better understand the connections between Japan and the United States, and appreciate the gardens as symbols of beauty, nature, and peace.  


Jeff Burton, an archaeologist with the National Park Service, has studied historic and prehistoric sites across the United States. His most gratifying work, though, is his current position as the Cultural Resources Manager for Manzanar National Historic Site in eastern California, where he is responsible for the preservation, restoration, and maintenance of dozens of Japanese gardens constructed by many of the 10,000 Japanese Americans who were imprisoned at Manzanar during World War II.  Burton has led the excavation and preservation of several of Manzanar’s gardens through community volunteer archaeology projects, and authored publications and articles about Manzanar’s gardens, as well as a Garden Management Plan that will guide the restoration of the gardens in the future.