CALL TO ACTION: Protesting the Auctioning of Japanese Internment Artifacts

ABAS Letter to David Rago re Auction of Internment Camp Artifacts

This Friday, April 17, 2015, Rago Auction house in New Jersey will be selling Japanese American incarceration heritage items to the highest bidder. These items include crafts, personal objects, and prisoner artworks that were made by family members held behind barbed wire during World War II. They were given (not sold) to the original collector, who opposed the incarceration, in the expectation that they would be exhibited. Now the collection is to be sold and dispersed into private hands against the original collector’s stated wishes.

The ABAS Board of Directors voted unanimously to condemn the auction. In letters sent to the Rago Auction House, we have called for the auction items to be withdrawn and that the Asian/Pacific Islander American community be given an opportunity to fully voice its concerns. The goal is to work towards an avenue to preserve the incredible collection of items donated by those incarcerated during World War II and their families, so as to benefit history.

New York Times: Rago auction house in Lambertville, N.J., is offering photos of internees and objects that they made, including cigarette cases woven from onion sack string and wooden family nameplates that were attached to barracks. The internees gave their artworks and furniture to the historian Allen Hendershott Eaton while he was researching his 1952 book, “Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese in Our War Relocation Camps.”

Sacramento Bee: The collection belonged to the late Allen H. Eaton, a former Oregon state legislator and anti-war activist who became known as a champion of folk art. At the end of World War II, Eaton visited five incarceration camps to study the handicrafts made there.

The book featured 81 sets of photos of Japanese American artisans and their works. Most of the items came from Wyoming’s Heart Mountain Relocation Center, where thousands of Japanese Americans from California were imprisoned. Eaton died in 1962, and Rago has not disclosed who put his collection up for sale.

Join the call to action. Contact the Rago Auction House to voice your concerns.

David Rago,<>

Suzanne Perrault,<>

Miriam Tucker,<>.

For more information, view the links below:

Link to auction:  Lots 1232-1255  (450 items bundled into 23 lots)

Link to Facebook page re auction

Link to SacBee article

Link to NYTimes article