The family which put up for auction art work and photographs from the incarceration camps during World War II has revealed themselves for the first time, reports the New York Times.
The auction at Rago in New Jersey abruptly came to a halt after a nationwide outcry from Japanese and other Asian Americans.
“We have tried to be good stewards of this material and protect it over the years,” said John Ryan. “We weren’t trying to extort money from anyone.”
Ryan says his family has had the items for years stored first in his father’s house and now his house in Connecticut. The items were originally collected by author and historian Allen Eaton with the ultimate goal of organizing an exhibition highlighting the injustice of the camps. The materials were passed on to his daughter Marsha Eaton, who then, according to the Ryans, sold some of them to John’s father Thomas. The rest of the collection was eventually willed to Thomas Ryan.
It was a will that was contested in court. The Eaton family accused Ryan of taking advantage of their mother’s declining age, but a judge ultimately ruled in Ryan’s favor. John Ryan inherited the collection from his father in 2008. Ryan said his family was not in a financial position to donate the items and said his hope was that a museum would bid for the items at auction.
Yet, he rejected a $50,000 offer by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation to purchase the collection just days before the scheduled auction earlier this week.
Ryan says he will make a formal request for proposals about what to do with the collection. You can read about that and reaction from the Japanese American community in the New York Times.