Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Japanese American Relics Capturing WW II Internment Story from Seattle’s Panama Hotel to Be Documented, Catalogued for First Time

View of the Panama Hotel  Historic view of the corner of Sixth Avenue South and South Main Street. ca. 1920's Photo Courtesy Panama Hotel

View of the Panama Hotel Historic view of the corner of Sixth Avenue South and South Main Street. ca. 1920’s Photo Courtesy Panama Hotel

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has received a grant of $137,178 from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program to inventory, document, catalogue, and research the collection of objects left behind in the basement of Seattle’s Panama Hotel at the time of Japanese American internment that were never reclaimed after World War II.

“The National Trust and our partners in this effort are thrilled to receive full funding for our proposal, Left Behind: Documenting the Japanese American Collections at the Panama Hotel,” said Sheri Freemuth, field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “This grant allows us to bring to life some of the stories of  the more than 110,000 Japanese Americans and those of Japanese descent taken from their homes during this dark time in American history.”

During WWII internment, the hotel owners and neighbors stored belongings in the hotel’s basement. Photo credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

During WWII internment, the hotel owners and neighbors stored belongings in the hotel’s basement. Photo credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Conservation priorities identified during the inventory process will guide the recommendations for the preservation and interpretation of the Panama Hotel collection. The goal is to include a searchable database with photos, description, and a condition for each object as well as reports outlining key objects of significance and  steps for the future of the items.

Located at the epicenter of Seattle’s Nihonmachi (Japantown), the National Trust named the Panama Hotel to its portfolio of National Treasures in April. The Hotel joins more than 60 other sites throughout the country where the Trust has made a commitment to taking direct action to protect these places and promote their history and significance.

In addition to the work funded by this grant, the National Trust is collaborating with hotel owner Jan Johnson, and Historic Seattle to find a new steward for the Hotel and its array of artifacts while also honoring the legacies of Johnson and previous owner Takashi Hori.

The goal of the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program is to teach present and future generations about the injustice of World War II confinement history and inspire a commitment to equal justice under the law. Successful proposals are chosen through a competitive process that requires applicants to match the grant award with $1 in non-federal funds or “in-kind” contributions for every $2 they receive in federal money.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” She is profiled in Jade Magazine.

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Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

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