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St. Louis Park collectibles store receives potentially rare photo album

Evan Kail posted on TikTok asking for help authenticating the album that might contain never-before-seen photos from the Massacre of Nanjing.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — St. Louis Park Gold and Silver became the unassuming place where history and TikTok met in a big way this week. The owner of the store, Evan Kail, said he did not expect what he had in possession to become an international phenomenon.

Kail, who does a lot of his marketing on TikTok, made one about a book he had received from a customer on Monday.

"Had a customer reach out and tell me that they have this old book of photos from World War Two," the TikTok begins.

"I started an international incident," Kail said. "Oops."

Kail said although he sees quite a bit of historical paraphernalia come his way, he hasn't seen anything like the book before. 

"I start looking through and maybe 10, 15 pages in...is when it gets really disturbing," he said.

The scrapbook of sorts, from an American named Leslie Allen, features remarkably well-taken photos from Southeast Asia and Asia. The collection shows mundane moments, of life in that part of the war before the war. However, the several pages Kail referred to, show horrific images of absolute devastation and killing from the late 1930's, presumably during the time of the Nanjing Massacre, formerly known as the Rape of Nanking.

"I shut the book, and I had to process it," he said. "And [I] kept going through, and it's just a few pages, but the pages there are really really really bad."

Kail said since his TikTok has blown up, he has had many visitors in the store, either because they were curious, or they wanted to help identifying/authenticating the photos.

"I had somebody look at it yesterday and what they thought was it is authentic, it is--violence in Shanghai, not Nanking," he said. "Nanking road is in Shanghai, there's a caption about that. However, it does accurately document the atrocities done to the Chinese people by Japan."

Also among visitors, Kail explained a lot of Chinese folks coming in, to see a part of history they haven't seen before. Kail said many have been emotional.

"We've been told that we have this period -- we were weak at the time-- this is my first time looking at photos," a man who only wanted to be identified as Owen said. "During this period, we have that in our historical textbook but it doesn't have picture[s] on it."

"I would like it to be given to the right hands to be protected, preserved, and maybe a traveling exhibit where it can go around," Kail said. "The whole book tells the story, a narrative from start to finish and that's why I think it's so powerful and important."

Kail said he does not plan on selling the book to private collectors, although he has received many offers. He said he wants some help in authenticating the photos, and hopes he can hand it off to a museum somewhere.

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