Olsen Collection

The Olsen family was living in the Manila area when Japanese forces began their occupation in December 1941 and included young Roberta and Esten Olsen. In January 1942, the family was ordered to pack enough clothing and supplies for three days and report to Santo Tomás University, which had been turned into an internment camp. Their imprisonment within the camp would last until February 1945, when it was liberated by returning Allied forces under the command of General MacArthur. They were repatriated to the US later that year.

20230918_120147Doll, c. 1941

This plastic doll belonged to Roberta Olsen. She was nine years old when she entered Santo Tomás Internment Camp and kept this doll with her during three years of internment.

20230918_120156Valise, c. 1941

This valise belonged to the Olsen family. In late December-early January, Allied civilians living in and around the capital of Manila were ordered to report to Santo Tomás University with enough supplies and food to last them three days. Most internees were under the impression they would be registered by the Japanese occupation forces before being allowed to return home or would be sent back to their countries of origin. The internment lasted three years. The Olsen family, which included young Roberta Olsen, packed this valise with their clothes and other items before reporting to Santo Tomás in January 1942. The family remained there until liberation in 1945. They kept the valise, which was given its Santo Tomás label ahead of the family’s return to the U.S.


Knitting Needles with Unfinished Child's Garment, c. 1944

These needles belonged to the Olsen family. The unfinished garment is a pair of undercloths meant for young Roberta Olsen. 


Birthday Card, c. 1942

This card was made by a friend of young Esten Olsen, a child when she was interned with her family. Esten was eight years old when she passed away in Santo Tomás from tubercular meningitis. 




Embroidered Blouse, c. 1943

This blouse belonged to Esten Olsen but was given to internee Leanne Blinzler Noe by Esten's mother after her death. It was afterward embroidered with the names of other internees, soldiers with the liberation forces, and hospital staff where Leanne and her sister were injured during the battle that took place when the camp was liberated. Among the names are Karen Kerns, Louise Howard, and Esten and Roberta Olsen.