Japanese Internment Camp Artifacts Find Permanent Home with the Help of ‘Star Trek’ Star George Takei 

Estelle Peck Ishigo, a watercolor depicting the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Photo: Rago Arts & Auction Center.
Estelle Peck Ishigo, a watercolor depicting the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. Photo: Rago Arts & Auction Center.

The Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles announced at a benefit gala on Saturday night the acquisition of artworks and artifacts created in internment camps during World War II, the New York Times reports.

The collection was put up for sale last month in a controversial auction at the Rago Arts and Auction Center in New Jersey (see Auction of Internment Camp Art Sparks Widespread Outrage).

The auction was called off following protests by Japanese Americans and advocacy groups (see Rago Cancels Controversial Auction of Artifacts From Japanese Internment Camps).

The benefit gala was held in honor of Japanese American National Museum board trustee and actor George Takei, famous for his role as Sulu on the original Star Trek.

Takei—who was imprisoned in two internment camps with his family as a child—had a key role in the negotiations to stop the auction.

“Many of the photos picture peoples’ grandparents and parents, and there’s a strong emotional tie there,” Takei is quoted in the Los Angeles Times. “The most appropriate and obvious place for the collection was the Japanese American National Museum. I talked to David Rago after the uproar, and he was very thoughtful and receptive.”

Museum officials declined to disclose the details of the purchase. The museum’s president, Greg Kimura, told the New York Times that the transaction was “an amicable and mutually beneficial arrangement.” The high estimate for the collection—originally assembled by Allen Hendershott Eaton—was $27,900.

The auction’s consignor, John Ryan, inherited the collection from his father, who in 1990 served as the executor of the estate of Eaton’s daughter Martha. Ryan said in an interview that Rago had assured him the auction would attract institutional bidders (see Seller of Controversial Japanese Internment Camp Artifacts Steps Forward To Defend Himself).


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