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JANM to Display Eaton Collection as ‘Contested Histories’

Post-conservation oil painting of Heart Mountain by Estelle Ishigo. (Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection, Japanese American National Museum)

Beginning Jan. 7, 2018, the Japanese American National Museum will display the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection, which was saved from the auction block in 2015 through the efforts of various community groups that felt Japanese American history from World War II should not be for sale.

Opening day coincides with the museum’s annual Oshogatsu Family Festival, which is free all day from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. After Jan. 7, the display will be included with regular museum admission and accessible at museum’s Hirasaki National Resource Center hours on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 2:30 to 5 p.m. It will remain on view until April 8, 2018.

While conducting research for a book about art and craft objects created by Japanese Americans during World War II, author Allen Hendershott Eaton amassed a significant collection of such camp artifacts. After many years of being in storage and forgotten, the collection was inherited by a family friend of Eaton’s, who in April 2015 decided to put the artifacts up for auction. Japanese American activists and community leaders rallied successfully to stop the sale and ultimately the collection was transferred to JANM.

Titled “Contested Histories: Art and Artifacts from the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection,” the display will include physical or digital representation of every item in the collection — more than 450 individual photographs, sculptures, paintings and watercolors, jewelry items, vases, beads, nameplates, and other handmade items from the wartime incarceration camps that Japanese Americans were forced to endure.

In addition to providing the opportunity to see a collection that inspired strong emotions and decisive actions within the Japanese American community, “Contested Histories” is intended to help gather information about each individual object so that the museum’s efforts to preserve and catalog the collection can be as complete as possible. Camp survivors and their family members and friends will be encouraged to share with JANM information they know or remember about the objects, including who is depicted in the many photographs, most of which were shot by photographers working for the War Relocation Authority.

Post-conservation painted family name plate. (Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection, Japanese American National Museum)

After the display at JANM concludes in April, the artifacts and/or facsimiles will travel to a number of other locations in the U.S. for additional viewing and information gathering. Venues and dates for the traveling display are still being determined.

Support for the conservation and display of the Eaton Collection was provided by the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program.

Additional information about Contested Histories is available at

JANM is located at 100 N. Central Ave. in Little Tokyo. General admission is $12 adults, $6 students and seniors, free for members and children under age five. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from noon to 8 p.m. Closed Monday, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit or call (213) 625-0414.

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