WASHINGTON (KABC) --An Eyewitness News documentary was given the rare privilege of becoming part of an American institution. Our film, "Witness: The Legacy of Heart Mountain," delves into the story of Heart Mountain, where 10,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II, and was featured Thursday night at the Smithsonian Institution.
The screening was part of a special ceremony in Washington D.C. at the National Museum of American History.
"The Smithsonian is the largest museum complex in the world. We have 19 museums and research centers and we really are responsible for increasing diffusion of knowledge. Here at the Museum of American History - one of the three largest Smithsonian museums - we are responsible for keeping the material record of the American people," said David Allison with the National Museum of American History.
At the museum, visitors can find a remarkable collection of pieces that tell the story of how the nation went from being a struggling colony to the most powerful country in the world. Pieces show innovations that helped us in our daily life to moments of crisis, like the hat President Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated.
As comprehensive as the collection is, the Smithsonian Institution is striving to further tell the American story by discussing chapters that have often been shied away from in history books.
"Many Americans are not aware of the full extent to which Japanese American were actually interned during World War II, in ways that were unfair to them and contrary to their citizenship and yet many Japanese-Americans went on to serve in the military with great distinction and honor," Allison said.
The Smithsonian Institution's enormous influence brought out a packed house on a night Washington D.C. was enduring one of its coldest nights on record, with the wind chill well below zero.
The crowd watched the documentary, which was followed by a panel discussion with experts, including Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the first Asian-American to be a cabinet secretary and mayor of a major U.S. city.
Curatorial assistant Noriko Sanefuji hopes to further expose this chapter in American history by planning more exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution.
"It's not just the Asian-American, Pacific Islander story, but it's an American story," Sanefuji said.
Even though Japanese internment was 70 years ago, its lessons of hate, racial profiling and the protection of our civil rights are as relevant today as the day it happened.