Japanese American National Museum
Current Exhibitions

Contested Histories: Art and Artifacts from the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection

January 7 - April 8, 2018


Allen Hendershott Eaton’s historic 1952 book, Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese in Our War Relocation Camps, 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 and a never-realized exhibition of camp artifacts, Eaton amassed a significant personal collection of such artifacts.

After many years of lying forgotten in storage, the collection was inherited by a family friend of Eaton’s, who in April 2015 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. With support from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program, the collection has now been conserved and will be exhibited in the museum’s Hirasaki National Resource Center (HNRC) as a special display titled Contested Histories: Art and Artifacts from the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection.

The display includes 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 items handmade by Japanese Americans while enduring incarceration in the WWII camps. 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.

After the display at JANM concludes on April 8, the artifacts and/or facsimiles will travel to a number of other locations in the United States for further viewing and information gathering. Venues and dates for the traveling display are still being determined; please check back for updates.

The display is included with regular museum admission and accessible during regular HNRC hours of Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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View pre-conservation photography of the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection on Flickr. Those with information about the origins of specific items are encouraged to share details.

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For press inquiries, contact or 213.625.0414.


Past Events

Sunday, January 7, 2018
11:00 AM—5:00 PM

2018 Oshogatsu Family Festival - Year of the Dog



Ring in the new year and celebrate the Year of the Dog with fun arts and crafts, food, cultural activities, and exciting performances!

  • Traditional mochitsuki (Japanese rice pounding ritual) performance by Kodama Taiko

  • Drawing demonstration and book signing by Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai

  • Dog candy sculptures by Shan the Candyman

  • Foster/adopt a dog with Dogs Without Borders

  • Osechi-ryori (Japanese New Year traditional foods) tasting

  • Fun Oshogatsu and Year of the Dog-inspired crafts, origami, and coloring activities

  • JANM Members Only reserved seating and express lines

  • Contested Histories: Art and Artifacts from the Allen Hendershott Eaton Collection special display (continuing through April 8, 2018, check link for hours)

  • …and so much more!

    Visit for complete schedule of activities.

    Sponsored by Los Angeles County Arts Commission.



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