NVC Newsletter

Contested Histories Exhibit Visits NVC Hall

by Cynthia Mikimoto
December 2018, Volume 68, Issue 11

Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Japanese American National Museum brought Contested Histories: Art and Artifacts from the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection to the Nisei Veterans Committee Memorial Hall in Seattle and it could not have been a more perfect location. The museum is dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of Japanese Americans, a mission that closely aligns with that of the NVC.

Over the course of the weekend, Clement Hanami, VP of Exhibitions at JANM welcomed more than 250 visitors to the pop-up display. He spoke about the significance and history of the display for visitors and at a special reception with Tomio Moriguchi on Saturday evening. The pop-up display includes 289 reproductions of photos and artwork in binders and 120 artifacts in 11 display suitcases. These sculptures, artworks, and other crafts were handmade by Japanese Americans while incarcerated in American concentration camps.

Allen Hendershott Eaton’s book Beauty Behind Barbed Wire explored art and craft objects created by persons of Japanese descent while wrongfully incarcerated in the World War II American concentration camps. It was one of the first books to examine any aspect of the lives of the 120,000 inmates. In the course of conducting research for the book Eaton amassed a significant personal collection of such artifacts.

In April 2015, after many years of lying in storage, the collection’s current heir attempted to put it up for auction. An outcry arose from Japanese American community leaders and activists, who rallied successfully to stop the insensitive sale of these important artifacts of Japanese American history. Ultimately, the collection was transferred to the Japanese American National Museum for safekeeping and is now part of this pop-up display created to share this story with former inmates of American concentration camps.

Every object has its own memory and with each stop we hope to gather more information about each piece from this collection. The chair you see on published materials was produced by Yorozu Homma, and we were excited that his family was able to join us at this stop.  See the flickr page http://www.janm.org/exhibits/contested-histories/venues/ for images of the collection. If you recognize any object in the display, we invite you to share your story with us as a comment on the website. We would love to hear from you!

Special thanks to NVC/NVC Foundation volunteers: Walt Tanimoto, Princess Hall, Mike Yaguchi, Bruce Inaba, Dave Nomura, Sheldon Arakaki, Ken Mochizuki, Louise Kashino, Geri Lynne Egeler, David Yamashita, Bev Kashino, Doug Tsujii, Chris Sketchley, and Debbie Kashino who helped set-up this pop-up display.

This project was funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. Additional support was provided by George and Brad Takei, the Earle K. & Katherine F. (Muto) Moore Foundation, and Richard Sakai. The collection was transferred to the Japanese American National Museum for safekeeping.