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Alum brings ‘Enemy Alien Files’ exhibit to library

The “Enemy Alien Files” exhibit will be on display at Albertsons Library through Sept. 29. This traveling exhibit from the National Japanese American Historical Society presents the experience of Italians, Germans, and Japanese immigrants in the US and from Latin America during World War II. 

Boise State alum Lilith Benjamin, who graduated in 2015 with a degree in English and a minor in history, brought the exhibition to campus. She holds a master’s degree in museum studies from the University of Toronto and said she fell in love with artifacts while volunteering at a museum.

“There is something close to magic about handling a physical thing, a visceral connection to the past that one can feel,” Benjamin said. She currently works as the collections manager at the National Japanese American Historical Society in San Francisco.

The exhibit explores the treatment of over 31,000 “enemy aliens” including their exclusion, forced removal, internment, use in prisoner exchanges, and deportation. The exhibit asks the audience to consider the fragile nature of constitutional and human rights in times of international and domestic crisis, as well as the human impact of government policies in the name of “national security.” 

Benjamin said she is proud to bring the exhibit to Boise State where she has fond memories of important relationships with faculty in particular.

“[The] kindness with which two very dear professors of mine, who were on my honors graduation committee, treated me when I came out during my second-to-last week of my senior year” is a memory she cherishes from her time at the university. “Their humanity and allyship made hope possible when I was really struggling with it.”

The exhibit is open during library hours, and made possible by the National Japanese-American Historical Society, the German-American Internee Coalition, the National Park Service, the Italian-American Studies Association, and the Japanese-Peruvian Oral History Project.