Officially the mouthfull name of this establishment is The Wing Luke Museum of the Pacific Asian American Experience, which describes the museum and its offerings. It is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
Some of the museum displays and exhibits rotate, while others are permanent. I highly recommend leaving time to take the guided tour, as it visits places behind doors that are marked "Staff Only", and behind those doors lie some of the treasures of this museum. The museum is located in one of the buildings that once first housed Asian immigrants upon their arrival in Seattle. The old Asian grocery store on the lower floor is another treasure that you can explore on this tour. There are art displays, history displays, and an auditorium for special speakers.
The standard ticket price is $12.95, which may seem somewhat high, and one of the reasons why I highly recommend allowing as much time as possible to see everything, especially the guided tour. As with most of the museums in Seattle, it is closed on Mondays. It is also a participant in the 1st Thursday museum open house event, in which the museum is open until 8 pm. It is also open until 8 at night on the third Saturday of the month. Certain holidays are an exception to these hours, however.
The photography policy is that it is generally acceptable to take photographs with handheld cameras, except in areas where there are art displays or otherwise exhibits are marked to not permit photography.
Wing Luke was born in 1925 in China, to a family that had earlier emigrated to the USA, and then returned to China. They came to the Seattle area when Wing Luke was very young. He became a political figure, military hero during World War II, and early civil rights leader, but died in a plane crash in 1965. Forming a museum like the Wing Luke Museum was a stated goal of his, and thus the naming of this museum in his honor.
I arrived visited the museum on December 11, 2010. There happened to be a tour leaving in a few minutes, and so I joined them. We immediately went next door, to the virtually intact Asian grocery store, though it was originally located about 1/2 a block away. The store had been in operation by a family for many decades, and little in it had changed over those years, complete with the mechanical cash register and many other relics (but still fully functional) of a much earlier store. When it closed in 2007, it was completely moved to the museum owned property, with virtually every single fixture and sale item, so that it is essentially an intact example of a functioning Seattle Asian grocery store, as it would have existed in the very early 1900s.
We then went up to the 3rd floor and behind closed doors, and into the essentially intact sections of the old hotel building. Here, except for decay of time and weather, the "hotel" is a relic of the primitive living conditions that once welcomed Asian immigrants to Seattle. Bare floorboards, primitive furniture, crowded rooms, and little privacy can still be imagined, though the rooms did not retain most of their furniture. One of the rooms was once used by one of the family associations, which were an important part of the system used to support new arrivals. This room, while very worn, still retains some of the decorations that mark it as a formal meeting hall.
Other rooms are dedicated to specific ethnic groups. For example one of the rooms is dedicated to immigrants from the Philippines.
A number of slideshows have been put together and play throughout the old hotel section of the museum. However, as it is only possible to visit this section of the building while on the guided tour, it isn't possible to really watch that much of any one show.
Elsewhere in the museum, there were art displays dedicated to immigrants and by immigrants, a touching display (closing December 12th of 2010) about the refugee experience, a temporary display about the experience about experiencing life as Asian adoptees, a small room dedicated to the victims of Pol Pot and the Killing Fields in Cambodia, and permanent more general displays about the experience of Asians in the USA.
It is a shame that some more space isn't available for some of the eccentric and wonderful and touching artwork done by Asian people that were part of the temporary displays.
Hi, I used to be the PR./Marketing contact at the museum, a couple of years ago, until I decided to go back to school.
Anyhow, I wanted to share this Seattle treasure with you. It is the only Pan Asian and Pacific America-focussed museum in America. Topics surround the histories, lives, and experiences of these Americans, who too often are marginalized as "foreign". This museum celebrates the contributions and accomplishments of Asian and Pacific Americans of yesterday and of today. Besides their interactive and poignant exhibits, they are active in community service and working on projects and events with other communities around Seattle-building bridges and relationships. By weaving together rare artifacts and contemporary art (by local artists) Wing Luke Asian Museum is able to tell an honest and genuine story. It is also a Smithsonian affiliate and has been nationally awarded and recognized world-wide. Some past exhibitions include: Seattle's Garment Workers, Asian Adoptees, Asian and Pacific Americans in Sports, Japanese Internment camps, immigration, Lunar New Years, Hip-hop, etc... They offer group and school tours (booked in advance). Don't miss this treasure!