NORFOLK, Va. – An artifact from the MacArthur Memorial Collection in Norfolk has been named one of Virginia’s most endangered artifacts.
The artifact is a map of the United States created by children during World War II.
The Virginia Association of Museums releases the list each year in order to identify artifacts in need of conservation.
According to VAM, “The program is designed to create awareness of the conservation needs of artifacts in the care of collecting institutions such as museums, historical societies, libraries, and archives throughout Virginia.”
The map was donated to the MacArthur Memorial by the family of Helen Angeny, a missionary working in the Philippines when Japanese forces invaded in December 1941. Helen served as the art teacher at Brent School in Baguio, Philippines when the city was occupied in late 1941. She and her husband Ed were interned with 500 other Allied civilians in Camp Holmes outside Baguio, where they spent the majority of the war.
Once the Japanese occupied the Philippines, they banned all material of western influence especially items with strong patriotic content concerning the United States. The map was secretly made by Helen and her students as a class project, teaching principles of art, social studies, and geography. She used the art project as a teaching device, but more significantly as a collaborative effort to keep up the morale of her students and keep their focus off of their imprisonment. Knowing she would be severely punished if caught, Helen did this at great personal risk to herself.
Helen and Ed Angeny were liberated by MacArthur’s forces in early 1945. When she returned to the United States, Helen brought papers, drawings, personal accounts, and artifacts with her, including the map she took great care to conceal for three years from the enemy. In 2013 her daughter donated these materials to the MacArthur Memorial.
The map is 41” in height and 51 ¾” in width, made of a cotton-silk blend material. The map’s edges are decorated with paper squares, each with its own crayon-drawn vignette from American history. There has been wear-and-tear and fading over time and there are several areas in which the paper cards are beginning to come away from the cloth. The MacArthur Memorial is seeking funding to stabilize and to preserve this priceless artifact for the education of future generations.