Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience

Last post of the year and just in the nick of time, and also, second post of the month, I finally made time to write it. Look forward to an onslaught of posts next year, I’m going to work hard to clear my backlog, and make the posts more relevant. Before I move onto the other posts, let’s continue in Seattle at…

Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, located in Seattle, Washington

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The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm; every first Thursday of the month, the museum is open from 10am to 8pm. Admission to the museum is $14.95 (which is quite expensive, however you can get a few dollars off if you can get your hands on one of those tourist attraction booklets, there’s a coupon in there.) The Wing (as the museum is commonly referred to) is located in the International district of Seattle, which is easily accessible by public transportation, so I would advise taking a bus and walking the short distance to the museum (or walk from anywhere in downtown Seattle, which is what I did). If you wish to drive, paid parking is available on the streets and at nearby parking lots. The museum also happens to be located in Seattle’s Chinatown, so there are a quite a few Asian restaurants in the area to try out.

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Some museums offer guided tours, but I’m not really a fan since it limits the time I have to look at the exhibits, and I also tend to lag behind cause I want photos of everything. (In addition, I’ve had a rather awkward experience of a one on one guided tour, thus I’ve avoided guided tours since.) But sometimes the only way into certain parts of a museum are through guided tours, so then the tours are a must if you wish to see these areas. The Wing offers guided tours of the historic space that the museum occupies every hour from 10:30am to 3:30pm.  The tour is included with the price of admission and is about an hour long. The tour starts at the space adjacent to the museum where visitors can explore the Yick Fung Company store, a Chinese import-export store dating back to 1910. The tour then proceeds to the third floor of the museum, which was once part of the historic Freeman hotel where many Asian immigrants found a home, a meal, and a refuge in America. Visitors can see how the immigrants lived in the early 1900s, and in addition, can view an authentic Chinese American family association room; family associations were groups that established around a common family name that helped immigrants settle into their new lifestyles.

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After the guided tour, I worked my way down the museum, starting on the second floor at the Tsutakawa art gallery, where visitors can see the works of renowned and emerging Asian Pacific American artists. When I visited,  “Art in Motion: the Evolution of Board Culture” was on display from August 15, 2014 to April 14, 2015. The exhibit was about board sports: skateboarding, snowboarding, and surfboarding. Today we see a glamorized version of board sports that include sponsorships and even Olympic medals, but before these sports became mainstream, people had to rely on their own ingenuity to find the money and space to ride. The exhibit presents the stories of five riders and artists who express what riding really means to them, beyond all the glitter and glamour.

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Next up on the second floor is the permanent exhibition entitled “Honoring Our Journey”, where visitors can learn about the journey of the Asian Pacific immigrants. The Asian Pacific American category is a very diverse one,  where Asian doesn’t just pertain to the Chinese and Japanese, and Pacific Islander isn’t just Hawaiians and Filipinos, but includes various groups from over 40 countries.  In this exhibit, visitors can learn about how and why  the various groups immigrated to America, and the struggles they faced in U.S. The exhibit is divided into five sections detailing the experiences of the immigrants and refugees: Home, Getting Here, Making A Living, Social Justice and Community. Right next to this exhibit is the Uwajimaya Kidplace, an interactive exhibit for the children (Not sure what’s inside cause I didn’t want to be the creeper with a camera taking pictures of children.)

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A traveling exhibit that was on display while I visited was the Young Family Collection of Qing dynasty textile. On display were a variety of traditional clothes worn by Chinese women and men during the Qing dynasty, and Chinese embroidery pieces.

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Also on the second floor is the Community Portraits galleries, where visitors get an in-depth look into the stories of five specific Asian Pacific American communities. The five exhibits on display were “I Am Filipino”, “Vietnam in the Rearview Mirror”, “Alaskeros: A Documentary Exhibit on Pioneer Filipino Cannery Workers”, “Cambodian Cultural Museum and Killing Fields Memorial” and “Hometown Desi: South Asian Culture in the Pacific Northwest”. Each gallery is filled with a variety of artifacts and/or photographs to give visitors a unique prospective and understanding of the different cultures.

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On the first floor of the museum are two small one wall exhibits. One is on Wing Luke’s story, the museum’s name sake, and the other is a rotating exhibit examining contemporary issues of the Asian Pacific American community.

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One of the main exhibits on the first floor is a rotating exhibit in the Special exhibition gallery. When I visited, the exhibit on display was entitled “Bojagi: Unwrapping Korean American Identities”. The exhibit was on display from November 14, 2014 to June 21, 2015 and explored the complexities of what it means to be a Korean American. On display were a variety of objects and images relating to the Korean culture. The other exhibit is the Bruce Lee exhibit. According to the museum website, this exhibit will run for three years, with new items being showcased each year. When I visited, the exhibit was on its first year and the theme was Bruce Lee’s martial arts philosophy and Seattle roots. The exhibit is currently in the second year and the theme is Bruce Lee in film and media. The exhibit has a no photography policy, so if you’re interested in Bruce Lee and in seeing some memorabilia, go check it out. (You have until 2017, at least.)

It took me approximately 1.5 hours to go through the museum, not including the guided tour. I highly suggest to do the tour as it’s included in the admission, and a fun interactive way to learn history.  (It’s as close to seeing actual history as possible, without a time machine.) If you plan to do the tour and the museum, it would be wise to allocate about 3 hours to see the museum as the galleries contain plenty of information, and there’s a bit of everything, art, history, and children’s activities, to keep the whole family interested. The price of admission is kinda hefty, but since there’s a tour included, and considering the size of the museum, it is definitely worth the price. So bring yourself, your friends, and your family to learn about the diversity of the Asian Pacific Americans at the Wing Luke Museum of Asian Pacific American Experience.

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