After heated outcry by the Japanese American community protesting the scheduled public auction of 450 arts and crafts items made by incarcerated Japanese Americans during their time in World War II internment camps, and the timely intervention of Asian American actor and activist George Takei, Rago Arts and Auction Center has withdrawn the relevant lots from auction.
“[Japanese American] politicians, attorneys, community organizations, historians, academics, have rallied their support as grass roots community responses have been coming in,” Satsuki Ina, PhD, filmmaker “Children of the Camps” and member of the ad hoc committee Japanese American History NOT for Sale, told NBC News. A Change.org petition protesting the sale garnered over 6,700 signatures.
However it was the intervention of George Takei, coupled with a potential Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation injunction, that finally turned the tide. Takei has reportedly agreed to act as intermediary between Rago Arts and Auction Center and Japanese American community institutions.
In a Facebook comment on Japanese American History NOT for Sale, Takei confirmed, “Greetings from Australia! Thank you all for mobilizing on this important issue. It took a few calls today here in the wee hours, and I’ll be issuing a formal statement later, but we can all celebrate a bit today at this news.”
“We have always wanted to see this property where it could do the most good for history,” Miriam Tucker on behalf of Rago Arts and Auction Center partners told NBC News. “For us, there could be no better resolution than for a suitable museum, foundation or member/members of the Japanese American community with the means to preserve this collection to come forward and secure it for education, display and research.”
Acknowleding the uncertain ethical landscape of the proposed sale, Rago Arts and Auction Center also said, “There is an essential discussion to be had about the sale of historical items that are a legacy of man's inhumanity to man. It extends beyond what is legal. It is something auction houses, galleries and dealers are faced with regularly. We hope this controversy will be the beginning of a discourse on this issue.”
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