JACL Applauds Withdrawal of Japanese American Incarceration Artifacts from Auction

eaton auction

A screenshot for an auction listing from the RagoArts.com website for artifacts made by Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II. The items have since been withdrawn from the auction.

Contact: Priscilla Ouchida, JACL Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – The Japanese American Citizens League is pleased that over 450 artifacts crafted by Japanese Americans while unjustly incarcerated during World War II have been withdrawn from public auction.

Priscilla Ouchida, JACL Executive Director, stated: “We sincerely hope the auction house’s withdrawal of the items from sale will ensure caring treatment of these priceless objects that were made by community members, people who represent our friends, our grandparents, and our brothers and sisters. Forged in the darkest period of Japanese American history, they are sacred to Japanese Americans. JACL will continue to work with other Japanese American community organizations in an effort to ensure the artifacts are treated as originally intended at the time of their collection.”

Originally from the collection of folk art expert Allen H. Eaton, the items were set to be auctioned on April 17, 2015 by Rago Auction House of Lambertville, NJ. Records show that Eaton and those who contributed items had the mutual expectation that these crafts, artworks, and artifacts would be exhibited and photographed for public educational purposes and not in a private or commercial capacity.

JACL was aware of the auction and had been monitoring the situation closely since March. JACL was involved in the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation’s legal efforts to delay the auction after Rago Auction House and the consignor declined numerous offers and proposals from museums, community organizations, and individuals to donate the items, voluntarily delay the auction, or purchase the items at or above their stated value.

JACL respects the efforts of all involved to secure the action taken by the Rago Auction House. JACL acknowledges the staunch effort of specific groups who helped rally community sentiment against the auction and who dealt directly with the Rago Auction House. This includes the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation for their key intervention with the Rago Auction House and furthermore, the Ad Hoc Committee to Oppose the Sale of Japanese American Historical Artifacts that provided a constant drumbeat of opposition to the auction.

Founded in 1929, JACL has a long record of preserving places and items of historic importance to the Japanese American community. JACL is a longtime sponsor of the Art of Gaman, an exhibit of 120 artifacts created by Japanese Americans while incarcerated during World War II curated by Delphine Hirasuna.

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