Think of it as a neighborhood museum where you can learn more about your neighbors. The Hmong Cultural Center Museum officially opened in early December in a store on the ground floor of University Avenue. It is a few blocks from where the first Hmong refugees settled in St. Paul at the end of 1975.
And it’s just downstairs from the Hmong Cultural Center, which had no room left for the artifacts and information gathered there.
The museum now has space for groups to visit, said program director Mark Pfeifer. The new location has more room for the many Hmong embroidery pieces, musical instruments, a documentary theater and information panel after panel on everything from Hmong history to language, clans, activism, people. businesses and more. There are 30 panels throughout the museum created from extensive research.
“We are not trying to be the Hmong Smithsonians,” Pfeifer said. “We don’t even have a fundraising budget. The 1,200 square foot museum wants to teach visitors the basics of Hmong culture and history.
“The majority of our visitors are not Hmong,” Pfeifer said, adding that it is also a resource for Hmong who don’t know much about their own history.
The Twin Cities are home to the largest concentration of Hmong in America – over 70,000 Hmong residents – with the largest group living in Saint Paul and the surrounding area.
The museum’s opening suffered a setback just as it opened in September and was vandalized overnight with paint on its boarded up windows and white supremacist language. A new sign on the museum had to be replaced.
The storefront now has improved security, thanks to about $ 20,000 from the St. Paul Foundation for drop-down security gates and a window security film donated by 3M that makes the glass more difficult to break, said Pfeifer.
A little background
The Hmong Cultural Center moved into the upstairs offices and exhibition space of 375 W. University in 2014. “As the money came in, we were able to build it,” he said. said executive director Txongpao Lee.
In recent years, major funding for the museum’s new space has come from Arts Midwest, which has contributed $ 50,000 from its United States Regional Arts Resilience Fund; the Henry Luce Foundation in New York, which donated $ 50,000; a Legacy Fund grant of nearly $ 77,000 from the Minnesota Humanities Center; and an unsolicited $ 50,000 grant from Google last May in response to Asian-American hate crimes.
The Hmong Cultural Center has a five-year lease on the new museum space, located in St. Paul’s Little Mekong district. “We jumped at the chance to get the space,” Pfeifer says.
The Cultural Center grew out of a speakers bureau, “Hmong 101,” which Pfeifer and Lee created when the last wave of Hmong immigrants arrived in Minnesota in 2004, Pfeifer said.
The upstairs space still has a few exhibits, including traditional Hmong clothing, tools, and more embroidered history fabrics. The center will continue to offer ESL and US citizenship classes, as well as arts and music classes. The vast library contains more than 500 academic theses on the Hmong, the most comprehensive collection in the world, Pfeifer says. There is also a library and reading room, and the Hmong Cultural Center is also working on a school program on Hmong culture and history.
Here are some of the features of the New Hmong Cultural Center Museum:
A theater setup presents three documentaries, including a “60 minutes” from 1979 which was among the first to discuss the American secret war in Laos and the involvement of the Hmong.
Detailed information panels look at the secret war and the history of the Hmong. There are also signs with information on Hmong sports (including Olympic gold medalist Suni Lee), food, traditions, accomplishments and more – 30 in all.
Musical instruments on display include the qeej, a Hmong mouth organ. There are iPads that show the qeej being read and QR codes that can be downloaded to phones to watch and hear music.
the embroidered history fabrics and traditional flower fabrics have descriptive labels. History fabrics are a new art form that began after the Hmong arrived in the United States. Symbols on flower fabrics, which have a longer Hmong artistic tradition, are explained.
The Hmong Cultural Center Museum
- Or: 375 W. University, Saint-Paul. (Near the Green Line stop at Western Avenue)
- Hours: 10 am-4pm Monday to Friday and weekends by appointment.
- Admission: $ 5 per visitor
- To program a group or for more information: 651-917-9937 or hmonghistorycenter.org