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A museum is a building that accommodates various artifacts, scientific objects, and history of a certain group of people. The artistic and cultural values of these people may be also presented in different ways depending on policies of a museum. Anything significant concerning a certain ethnic group is available in a museum.
However, there are two main types of museums such as art museum, and history museum. This depends on what a certain museum want to present concerning a certain group of people (Aguirre and Turner 119). This paper will focus on three exhibition museums presenting the culture of some ethnic groups. Several issue such, as how the groups are presented in the museums would be discussed and many more.
The Wing Luke Museum
Wing Luke Museum is in Seattle. Seattle is found in Washington’s Chinatown-international District. This museum specializes in issues of culture, art, and history of Asian, pacific Americans. People find this museum as memorable, because it is the only one, which presents the information concerning the pan-Asian pacific American.
The life experiences of this ethnic group are clearly explained in the museum. Asian, pacific Americans are among the most dominant racial groups in United States of America (Chinese Historical Society 83). The name of the museum is in honor of one member of Seattle city council. This person was the first Asian American to be an official in one of the public offices in the Pacific Northwest.
At the beginning, this museum only focused on Asian folk art but later expanded its coverage to various aspects of the entire Asian, pacific Americans community. Other crucial programs are presented in the museum such as addressing civil rights, and humanity justice issues. These programs are meant to promote understanding of various cultures and tolerance.
Wing Luke history is one representation of the Asian pacific Americans. He is described as a person, who portrayed the importance of adhering to civil rights (Miller 102). He advocated for urban renewal, and the need for honoring historic events.
Through other presentations, the Asian pacific Americans are portrayed as people with exceptional hearts of survival, as they succeed through many struggles in United States. They are represented as people with high hopes, compassion, and have knowledge of handling various types of conflicts.
The stories concerning this ethnic group is told through written posters that are hanged everywhere in the museum. Every topic is presented in different posters for people, who are interested to read (Museum Education Roundtable 35). The photos, for clear understanding among the visitors, accompany most of the information presented.
Video presentations are also provided to tell the story clearly for those visitors, who would prefer such methods. For instance, food is part of any group’s culture. To make visitors understand more about the cultural foods of this ethnic group, the exhibition concerning this is structured in four main areas.
The first area is from the source to the table, where the history is clearly shown about the Asian, pacific American contributions to the food industry. The second area, exhibited is the family, which portrays that food is their central gathering point for the entire ethnic group. The third area is the politics, where issues like labor, nutrition and perseverance are narrated in a deep manner.
The final area is for culture, which demonstrates heritage aspects, adaptations, and originality. Historic and family photographs accompany the exhibitions. To demonstrate their originality in agricultural activities farming tools and main industrial, farming equipments are portrayed.
Moreover, most of the cultural aspects of this group are narrated and demonstrated in the museum. Beginning with the history and legacy of wing Luke, one get to know the history of Asian, pacific Americans. The collections and exhibits concerning these people are displayed.
Their cultural histories and stories that are accompanied with the relevant photos are made available for visitors to see. The most enjoyed part is the youth space and child friendly room that is provided to make such visitors feel comfortable, and have a chance to discuss issues in question (Aguirre and Turner 114). In the third floor, there is a display of original furniture such as tables and several rooms.
There is no clear explanation provided for the main purpose of these rooms. Visitors are left wondering what could be the purpose of the rooms. The Gary Locke library is one of the most fascinating parts left for visitors. This serves as a resource for students, historians, and any other person who may be interested in learning Asian American experience in United States.
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The interactive nature of the museum is attractive. The youths are made active through stories, photos, and artifacts. The youth are also provided with interactive activities, through which they can share culture and family histories. However, there are parts of the Asian pacific Americans history that are not told in the museum.
Before this ethnic group settled in America, several troubling experiences occurred. The process of settling in their current position was not easy. Some of the resistant that were experienced by the early immigrants included the ban of Chinese immigration, riots in 1907 against immigrants (Aguirre and Turner 96).
Early immigrants experienced harsh treatments such as denial to receive full veteran benefits. Only a small percentage that was accorded united states citizenship, and burial benefits. The Asian Americans were oppressed, hence could not enjoy the full benefits.
During the Second World War, the immigrants assisted the Americans in the war, but they could not be given the full veteran benefits. They were also supposed to receive the disability pension like other Americans, but they were not given. The debate concerning these immigrants to receive the full benefit has been there, although it has not been successfully passed (Miller 62).
This is the dark story of the group, which is not displayed to the public. The generations of the group, which may visit the museum may not feel comfortable to see how their first generation were oppressed. It is sure that these people were discriminated and killed during that period, but it would not be advisable for any visitor to be reminded of the sad story.
The full history is available in the museum, but such sensitive parts are preserved in private rooms, where the accessibility is preserved for some people. These are not the stories that every visitor would like to hear. Displaying the dark side of these people, may lead to a negative effect to the museum and to the visitors. It is the nature of every human being, not to display his or her weaknesses to everyone.
The use of technology is applied in the museum, although it is not commonly used. Innovations of more advanced technology are still being invented. Wing Luke museum; apply technology in their videos when telling the stories of Asian pacific American (Miller 113).
When visitors are, listening to the video to obtain some information, the stories he or she is listening to are controlled. The video may contain every detail about the history of Asian, pacific Americans, but what visitors listen to is controlled. It is easier to skip some parts, in a way that visitors may not realize.
Although these visitors may have read every detail from books, it is advisable for a museum to avoid presenting hurting stories to the visitors. Instead of going around the museum reading posters and analyzing the pictures accompanying the posters, visitors prefer listening to a video. It adds much joy to their comforts, especially when they are enjoying the cultural Asian foods.
In most museums, visitors do not pay attention to many posters, placed on the walls. It is tiresome, and most visitors consider it as wastage of time. Apart from obtaining information for learning purposes, most of the visitors go to museums for leisure.
The idea of reading the posters adds stress to their appropriate times. It is evident that, majority just look at the posters without any interest (Miller 95). The museum management may be thinking that, such posters are crucial to the visitors, but they are not.
Most of the visitors came to the museum to see to reality of what they have learnt or heard. Video explanations of tour guides, and practical participation to some events like cooking and eating work well in museums. Only the children who get interested to read the wall posters and the displays, but after a while, they also get bored.
The Burke museum
The burke museum is recognized by people as a museum of natural history and culture. This museum originated from the natural history club, which existed in the early 1880s. This old club was known as the young naturalist’s society.
The young naturalists’ society worked together with the Washington territorial university, specializing in natural science. The main theme was to assist the societies understand the natural history and displaying natural objects for their referral, and for the public to come and see. With time, the main players in Burke museum continued expanding and adding more materials for exhibition.
Burke museum represents both long term and unique exhibits (Schacht 109). Their exhibition depends on certain periods per year. The main exhibits that are found in the museum include conservation photography, recent natural events that happen, and ancient and modern cultural arts.
Although the museum has represented the culture of various ethnic groups, this part will mainly focus on Native American ethnic group. It is one of the many ethnic groups represented by Burke museum.
The Burke museum has tried to explain the culture of Native Americans in various ways. For instance, most of the factors of Native American are explained through various exhibitions, events, research, and collections.
The various exhibits that are used to explain the culture of Native Americans are current, upcoming, online, past, and traveling exhibits. One of the historic exhibits that are used by Burke museum is Carnival. The Ainu group is the native people of the region referred to as Hokkaido in Japan.
Their region of the occupants is mainly the northern islands. Their ancestors are believed to have occupied that area for more than 16000 years (Karl 103).
The Burke museum has represented this ethnic group as active traders, who conducted commerce with neighboring countries. The museum has portrayed their trading business, through displaying their trade objects they were using.
The Ainu ethnic group has a strong believe in spirits. Among the people of Ainu, it is evident that anything that is in the environment surrounding humanity is composed of spirit. They refer to such spirits as kamuy, and are expected to bring blessings to their people, as well as the whole community.
The Burke museum has managed to portray the religious point of view of this group through the provision of photos demonstrating their spirits. For instance, these spirits called kamuy are relied on to take care of everything that is used by human beings such as animals, plants, and water.
The cultural story of this ethnic group is narrated on how they perform rituals and ceremonies, as a way of giving thanks to gods for protecting them (Miller 78). The daily practices of this ethnic group as portrayed in the Burke museum were hunting, fishing, farming and foraging.
During the events that are held in the Burke museum, the main Ainu ceremonies are presented. One of their outstanding ceremonies is known as the “lomante”, which is a ceremony of the dead. The key issues during this ceremony are to honor and send animal gods to the big world of gods (McBrewster 98).
Many people attend a ceremony from the society. Another major theme of conducting such ceremonies is to bring the people of Ainu together, as a way of strengthening their community bonds. There is an immensely popular bear carving, which attracts every visitor, who comes in Burke museum.
Ainu artist known as Matsui Umetaro in early 1920s prepared the bear carving. He was a famous artist among the Ainu people.
The religious believes of the Ainu people is also emphasized through the exhibition of a sacred ikupasuy, a prayer stick, which was used when praying the god of the mountain. The sacred stick is believed to have been used during the first salmon ceremony. The Ainu people have a belief of using their beautiful art on clothes and platters, as away of showing honor and respecting their gods (Karl 106).
It is hard to define a spiritual aspect in any of their clothes and platters. Their tradition requires that their designs to remain original, without making any changes, as this would annoy their gods. Several designs of their robes are portrayed in the museum, with their uniqueness of symmetrical aspects.
The historical culture of the Ainu people is also elaborated through the history and picture of Sakhalin Ainu man. The picture is explained to be obtained in early 1900s. This man is used in the culture of the Ainu people, to demonstrate the mixed blood of Ainu and Russian group. His pictures show an expensive robe, and the belt, which is a sign of prosperity.
The picture of man is used in the museum, to show the interaction of two groups. Through their greatest economic activity of trading with their neighbors, they managed to interact, and some becoming a one group through intermarriages. The most emphasized interaction is that of the Ainu, and Russian (Karl 109).
A strong social contact proved to exist for many centuries between the two groups. The enormous Haida canoe displayed in the Burke museum demonstrates the long distance trading of the Ainu people. This acts as an evident of long distance trading.
Moreover, by events, exhibits, education, research, and collections the Burke museum has narrated much concerning the Ainu people. Just as in any other museum, it is not appealing to display the darker part of the group. The Ainu people are presented as a humble ethnic group.
At the beginning, they interacted well with the Japanese through intermarriage. The Japanese and Russian were significantly expanding groups that intended to finish the pure blood of the Ainu people. Their utmost theme was to grab the land of the Ainu people (Karl 120).
In history, the Ainu people were given the worst part of the country to settle by the Japanese. Much discrimination existed in Japan against this ethnic group. It reached a point when nobody would confess he or she belongs to Ainu group, due to fear of discrimination. In addition, the Ainu group is considered part of Japanese.
However, Burke museum would not agree to display this part of discrimination to the public. Although, it is a fact in their history, some visitors may not feel comfortable reading or seeing exhibits of such issues.
The Ainu people have a terrible history of being forced from their ancestral lands by the Japanese. They were referred to as commoners, with their festivals and hunting activities restricted. The Ainu people went through many frustrations in the hands of Japanese, something that cannot be displayed in the public.
Such darker parts may end up causing uneasiness among visitors, or the museum to lose their honored visitors. It is the responsibility of every museum to safeguard its reputation. The worst part of their history is that they were forbidden from using their native language. The piece of land that they were given was the worst part, and were not allowed to use other names apart from the Japanese ones.
Through the researches done, it is evident that the Ainu people face discrimination even today by the Japanese. The Ainu children, who happen to enroll in Japanese schools are exceedingly discriminated and bullied. It is said that, they are referred to as “Inu”, which is a Japanese name for dog (McBrewster 99).
Burke museum has tried as much as possible to make use of the advanced technology, when telling stories. Incase of most sensitive issues, they cannot be revealed in the story to the visitors. Through online exhibits, the story is made available through You Tube for the public to listen.
Most of the sensitive parts are skipped when making the video. Incase the story is told through the wall posters, the same thing, applies of skipping the most sensitive parts of the history. Visitors listen and watch videos within the museum.
Those videos do not reveal such areas to the visitors. The Burke museum has incorporated so many ways of passing the information to the visitors, hence making them satisfied. The use of tour guides, videos, and unique exhibits such as carnaval have made the visit to Burke museum as compelling event to visitor (McBrewster 104).
Visitors do not like reading the posters to get the real idea on something; they prefer something interactive to keep them alert. It seems to bore for people to keep on reading the posters on the wall.
The Cambodian Cultural Museum
This museum became operational first in 2001. The picture of the founder is placed at the entrance of the museum. He is said to have put extra efforts in gathering photographs, and other documents to assist in testifying the act of violence of the Khmer. This led to the name ‘killing Fields Memorial”.
The museum is meant to show significant honor to riches, and the enduring culture of the Cambodian people (Miller 103). This ethnic group is represented in this museum as a precise, determined and persevering group. There was a change of the location of the museum in 2004, when it moved to its current location at south of Seattle.
It is evident that most Americans and Cambodian Americans are not aware of the great violence that Cambodian people faced. Therefore, the museum creates an opportunity to create awareness to the public concerning how Cambodian people suffered.
These killings happened in 1970s, when the group was under the leadership of Pol Pot. In the museum and other historical sites, Pol Pot is described as ruthless leader and a brutal communist. This Cambodian leader was ruling through Rouge party.
The main theme of the leader and his fellow officials during this period was to do ethnic cleansing. The key targets were the people, who were adopting the western way of life. Pol Pot wanted to deal with those people directly, and if possible do away with them completely.
This systematic program of cleansing the western influenced individuals resulted to torture and deaths of more than two million people (Miller 86). The story of this ethnic group is full of sorrows, as so many people were brutally killed, while some managed to escape to the neighboring countries. A relatively large number of the Cambodian people immigrated to the United States.
The main purpose of the Cambodian cultural museum is to ensure that all those people, who were tortured by Pol Pot, receive the appropriate honor. Several lessons that were learned from this hurting episode are meant to serve, as a challenge to the most ignorant people.
The story of the Cambodian people is explained in the museum through various ways such as exhibits of various types and galleries. Family festival is one of the most fascinating ceremonies, which are held on Saturdays from 10am to 6pm. The beauty and wonders of Cambodia is presented in this festival, as a way of complementing other exhibitions.
The key activities that are featured in family festivals include traditional music, dance performances, and various gallery activities (Aguirre and Turner 118). The Gordon Getty Concert is another famous ceremony held in the Cambodian culture museum. It is mostly held in the evening, meant for visitors to understand the classical Cambodian music and dance.
The famous artists who are featured in this concert are Ho Chan and Charya Cheam Burt. The use of music and dance among the Cambodian people has served as a link between natural and spiritual ways of life. The Cambodian people currently exist as symbols of cultural flexibility and renewal.
The use of conferences is another way of narrating the history of Cambodian people in the museum. Leading scholars of Cambodian art, as well as the cultural specialist usually conduct these conferences. Their key theme is to present and discuss pertinent issues such as the history of the Cambodia people, their religious affiliation, and their modern way of life.
They also discuss in a wider way, the Cambodian bronze sculpture prepared by the University of California. The history presented in the museum educates the Americans and other visitors on the culture and art of the Cambodian people.
Most of People have managed to act as a witness for the millions of Cambodian people who perished in the violence (Jerrelene 149). Apart from the violence part of history, culture and their attractive arts are also presented in the museum.
The unfolding of the Cambodian people history through exhibitions, lectures, and performances has ensured excellent preservation of the art and heritage of this ethnic group. The clear testimonies, presented in the museum concerning the massive killings of the members of this group are an admirable way of preventing future genocide (Jerrelene 160).
The museum managed to reveal this dark part of the Cambodian history to create access of information to students, scholars, and journalists, in efforts of trying to warn the public on such incidences in future. The museum could not afford to hide this discouraging history, as they also expected support from humanitarian projects, to assist the oppressed Cambodian community.
Although the museum revealed the history of killings to the public, it was not possible to mention all individuals who facilitated the killings apart from Pol Pot. The public knew of the ruthless leader although, there were also other officials who contributed to the genocide. This is part of the story that could not be portrayed in the public.
The Cambodian cultural museum has equipped its library on the third floor. This is where visitors, who want to research more, can get the information. The Cambodian cultural museum has also placed most of their history in Wing Luke Asian Museum for easier accessibility.
The museum makes use of technology in telling the stories in the most appealing way. Through online, the museum uses the public radio documentary. The people who showed interest in the history of the Cambodian people were requested to call during the summer seasons.
Most of people from the community called in, listened to stories, and managed to share their own point of views (Books LLC 203). The people who called left approximately 200 messages to be shared among other visitors. They are wide use of videos in demonstrating and narrating the culture and history of Cambodian people.
The videos are set in a way that not every detail of the story is revealed, but only the main positive issues. The use of public radio documentary opens an opportunity for those people, who are willing to contribute in supporting the group.
The use of videos, guides, and events such as artist shows that are conducted regularly make the visit to the museum more intriguing. Most of people do not prefer the use of displays only, as they make the visit boring. An interactive way of narrating a story is better that a one-way method (Miller 112).
It was evident that, most of the visitors do not pay attention to most of the displays presented in the museum. Once they enter a museum, they look for a place, where there is someone, who can take them through the place. Incase there is an event going on, visitors end up becoming more interested in such places.
Other areas of the museum that are most fascinating to the visitors are hotels and gift shops. Reading the wall posters has never been appealing to the visitors in any museum. The Cambodian cultural museum has tried to incorporate all possible ways of telling the history and culture of their people. This is to ensure that their visitors are not bored during their visit.
Aguirre, Adalberto and Jonathan Turner. American Ethnicity: The Dynamics and consequences of Discrimination. New York: McGraw-Hill , 2010.
Books LLC. Cambodian cultural museum in the United States: Old stone House Museum. New York: General Books LLC, 2010.
Chinese Historical Society. Chinese America: History and Perspectives 2000. Beijing: Chinese Historical Society, 2000.
Jerrelene, Williamson. The cultural heritage of Cambodian people. New York: Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
Karl, Samson. Frommers Seattle 2011. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
McBrewster, John. The Burke Museum. New York: Indigo Shire Council, 2009.
Miller, Frederic. American Ethnicity. Michigan: VDM Publishing House Ltd, 2010.
Museum Education Roundtable. “Museum.” The journal of museum education (2006):20-69.
Roberto, Tomas. Replenished ethnicity: Mexican Americans, immigration, and identity. California: University of California Press, 2010.
Schacht, Walter. The Burke Museum: an expanded natural history museum for the Northwest: Final report. New York: Walter Schacht Architects, 2006.