City Cafe Interior with Tanaka Family, 1938. Photograph provided by Mary (Tanaka) Abo and Alice (Tanaka) Hikido.
This exhibit tells the stories of the Japanese who were evacuated from Juneau during World War II and those who settled here afterwards. The “Empty Chair” refers to a seat left unfilled at the 1942 Juneau High School graduation ceremony. “Amidst this furor (of the evacuation of Japanese-Americans), a decision was made to hold a special graduation ceremony for Juneau High School’s 1942 Valedictorian, John Tanaka. Subsequently, when his class graduated in June, 1942, an empty, wooden folding chair was left to symbolize John’s absence, and by extension, an entire community of Japanese and Japanese-Americans,” states the Empty Chair Project website at www.emptychairproject.wordpress.com. Also on display will be collages by Juneau artist Fumi Matsumoto which capture the memory of the internment camps, and a video of Juneau during 1941-1955 created by Juneau filmmaker, Greg Chaney. The exhibit is being mounted in conjunction with the installation of the Empty Chair Memorial in Capital Park. An opening reception at the Museum will occur on July 12, from 12-5, concurrent with the dedication of that memorial.