George Takei helps museum acquire 'priceless' collection of WWII internment camp artifacts

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George Takei helps museum acquire 'priceless' collection of WWII internment camp artifacts
George Takei, right, an actor from the television series Star Trek, and Brad Takei, left, arrive for a state dinner for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tuesday, April 28, 2015, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Actor George Takei, center, is surrounded by lawmakers after he was honored by the Assembly at the Capitol in Sacramento Calif., Monday, June 23, 2014. Takei, who gained fame for his role as Mr. Sulu in the 1960's TV show "Star Trek," was one of several members of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender community to be honored by lawmakers as part of the Legislature's celebration of LGBT Pride Month.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
George Takei speaks during an interview before a reception at U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy's official residence Thursday, June 5, 2014, in Tokyo. Takei said he needed courage and anger to come out as gay and to join the equal rights movement for sexual minorities in the U.S., and he hopes his Japanese counterparts will do the same to make their society more equal. Takei, 77, is in Japan to attend embassy-organized events marking Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in the U.S. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, Pool)
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2014 file photo, actor George Takei attends "Howard Stern's Birthday Bash" in New York. Takei is boldly going to Broadway _ the "Star Trek" star’s personal and heartfelt show about Japanese-Americans behind bars during World War II has found a spot on the Great White Way this fall. Takei is boldly going to Broadway _ the "Star Trek" star’s personal and heartfelt show about Japanese-Americans behind bars during World War II has found a spot on the Great White Way this fall. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)
George Takei arrives at the Premiere of "Bridegroom" at The Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
George Takei, right, and Brad Altman arrive at the Premiere of "Bridegroom" at The Samuel Goldwyn Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013 in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Cast member George Takei poses at the world premiere of "Free Birds" at the Regency Village Theater on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
FILE - This May 23, 2013 file photo shows actor George Takei gesturing with a hand greeting made popular by the TV series "Star Trek" at the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore for the inaugural Social Star Awards. Takei will serve as grand marshal of Cincinnati's annual Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati. The 76-year-old actor will lead the chicken dance Sept. 21. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
American actor George Takei gestures with a hand greeting made popular by the Television series Star Trek to waiting fans at the Gardens By The Bay on Thursday, May 23, 2013 in Singapore. Takei, popularly known as "Hikaru Sulu", helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek, is in the city-state to attend the inaugural Social Star Awards. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
American actor George Takei signs a Star Trek book for a fan at the Gardens By The Bay on Thursday, May 23, 2013 in Singapore Takei, popularly known as "Hikaru Sulu", helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the television series Star Trek, is in the city-state to attend the inaugural Social Star Awards. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Actor George Takei, left, who played the role of helm officer Sulu in the original television series, Star Trek, gives a "live long and prosper" gesture as he stands next to a Klingon character from "Star Trek The Next Generation", right, in the transporter room aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise space ship during an exhibit at the Tech Museum in San Jose, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2009. The exhibit opens on Oct. 23 and is one of the largest collection of authentic items from the Star Trek television and movie series. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Actor George Takei looks at a book showing paintings of the Tule Lake Segregation Center by Japanese artist Henry Sugimoto, July 30, 2001, at his Hancock Park home in Los Angeles. Takei and his family were among the 120,000 Japanese-Americans, many of them second-generation Americans, forced from their homes during World War II by order of President Franklin Roosevelt in the aftermath of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Actor George Takei is flanked by Andrew Morgan, left, accepting an award for Little Lord Fauntleroy and Mick Robertson, right, accepting for Wise Up at the 1995 International Emmy Awards held in New York, Monday night, Nov. 20, 1995. They were co-winners of Emmys awarded in the Children and Young People category. Both productions are from the United Kingdom. (AP Photo/Adam Nadel)
George Takei, right, and his partner Brad Altman talk with reporters after they received their marriage certificate permit in West Hollywood, Calif. Tue, June 17, 2008. The May 15 California Supreme Court ruling that overturned the state's bans on same-sex marriage became final at 5:01 p.m. Monday. (AP Photo/Hector Mata)
Actors George Takei, left, from Star Trek, and Bill Brochtrup, of NYPD Blue, look over a program at the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 5, 2001, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Charles Bennett)
Members of the "Star Trek" crew, from right in front: DeForest Kelley, William Shanter and Leonard Nimoy, and back row from right: James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols, toast the newest "Trek" film--in which Shanter makes his directorial debut--"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," during a news conference Dec. 28, 1988 at Paramount Studios to announce the latest voyage. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)
Members of the "Star Trek" crew, from right in front: DeForest Kelley, William Shanter and Leonard Nimoy, and back row from right: James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei and Nichelle Nichols, toast the newest "Trek" film--in which Shanter makes his directorial debut--"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," during a news conference Dec. 28, 1988 at Paramount Studios to announce the latest voyage. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)
CULVER CITY, CA - DECEMBER 02: Actors George Takei (L) and Masi Oka introduce The Fray onstage during the VH1 Big in '06 Awards held at Sony Studios on December 2, 2006 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
The space shuttle orbiter OV-101, aka 'Enterprise', is unveiled at the NASA/Rockwell International Space Division assembly plant at Palmdale, California, in the presence of the cast of hit tv show 'Star Trek', 17th September 1976. From left to right, NASA administrator Dr. James C. Fletcher, actors DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, series creator Gene Roddenberry and actor Walter Koenig. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
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George Takei saves the day!

The Rago Arts and Auction Center was planning a sale of a collection of paintings, photographs, and artifacts created and owned by people who had been imprisoned in internment camps for people of Japanese descent during World War II.

But thanks to an intervention from 'Star Trek' star and social justice activist George Takei, the collection will be acquired by the Japanese American National Museum, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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Roughly 450 works were set to be auctioned off. Items included photographs taken in the camps, watercolor and oil paintings and carved sculptures created by people who were incarcerated, and furniture and other belongings that survived internment.

"Many of the photos picture peoples' grandparents and parents, and there's a strong emotional tie there," Takei told the LA Times. "To put that up on the auction block to the highest bidder, where it would just disappear into someone's collection, was insensitive."

So Takei -- who is a board member of the Japanese American National Museum, which is located in Los Angeles -- personally spoke with David Rago, a founding partner of Rago Arts.

"The most appropriate and obvious place for the collection was the Japanese American National Museum," Takei said. "I talked to David Rago after the uproar, and he was very thoughtful and receptive."

Ultimately, the auction was canceled, and the entire collection was acquired by the museum.

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Greg Kimura, the president and chief executive of the Japanese American National Museum, said Takei had been instrumental in securing the collection for them.

"The works are priceless," Kimura told the LA Times. "To us, they're not just pieces of art; they are deeply important representations of the longing and hope of our families."

"This collection wouldn't be coming to (our museum) if it weren't for the intervention and passion of George Takei," he continued. "He stepped in to ask Rago that the auction be canceled, and, I mean, who can say no to George?"

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Takei was honored at the Japanese American National Museum's gala this past weekend:

A brief background on Takei's personal history with the internment camps: After Pearl Harbor was bombed, America collectively panicked that anyone in the country of Japanese descent could be a potential spy or operative for Imperial Japan. Nearly everyone with Japanese DNA, including people who were second- and third-generation citizens of the United States, was rounded up and forced to live in the camps. More than 100,000 people were sent to live in internment camps scattered around the country during World War II.

In 1942, Takei -- then 5 years old -- and his family were sentenced to an internment camp made of converted horse stables at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles.

"We had nothing to do with the war. We simply happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor," Takei said in an interview with Democracy Now! "But without charges, without trial, without due process ... we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast ... and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps."

After Santa Anita, his family was shipped to an internment camp in Arkansas, where they remained until the war ended. Just 20 years later, Takei would make history with his role as Sulu on the original TV series of Star Trek.

Angelina Jolie's Unbroken was also about World War II -- watch her explain how the compelling true story became her passion project:

The Story Behind Angelina Jolie's Passion Project 'Unbroken'
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