While the diverse cultures, cuisines, and languages that fall under the Asian Pacific communities in the US are very vast, you can still be certain to learn more about (and appreciate) them during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, which runs through the month of May. To guide you through the easy path to gaining a better understanding of the region and its significant contribution to American society, here are 5 museums and cultural centers across the US that are sure to inform and entertain you, not just during this month, but all through the year.
American Museum of Natural History (New York)
Dive into the many cultures of the South Pacific islands at the museum’s Margaret Mead Hall of Pacific Peoples. You can learn all about the ornate traditional masks from Papua New Guinea and marvel at the plaster cast life-size replica of the Moai, one of the large stone heads found on the Easter Island (off the coast of Chile). You can also be enlightened by the shadow puppets from Java, Indonesia, which for centuries have used light and puppetry to engage audiences about religion, history, and mythology. There is also a great exhibit on the weapons used by Maori warriors from New Zealand, which are made from whalebone, wood, and stone.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)
If you are in the Big Apple, the Met is also a great stopover to take in some stunning artifacts from the Pacific Islands in the Arts of Oceania section of the museum. You can check out fine examples of rock paintings of the Australian Aboriginals, some which are more than 40,000 years old! The Met also showcases a strong collection of sculptures from the island of New Guinea, Polynesia, and the islands of Southeast Asia. In addition, you can get some perspective on how imagery found in art from the Pacific Islands had a direct influence on western art forms like Expressionism and Surrealism.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
LACMA is home to a vast collection of Pacific art that focuses on Polynesia and Melanesia. The items on exhibit include an 18th-century Hawaiian drum, an Easter Islands dance paddle, and a hermaphrodite ancestor figure from Papua New Guinea. The museum has a collection of Asian art that is also impressive and eclectic, with a dedicated Pavilion for Japanese Art and a wing of Korean art in the Hammer Building that spread over a wide of range of historical periods.
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (Washington, D.C.)
The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center takes things up a notch by coming up with creative, interactive platforms through which to highlight the stories of Asian and Pacific Island peoples. Its Culture Labs are dedicated to use new technology and social media to bring virtual exhibits right to your screens wherever you may be.
St. Louis Art Museum (St. Louis)
This major museum has some insightful exhibits about the Pacific Islands, and its artifacts include a Maori fishing canoe, a Fijian breastplate, and a New Guinea human-bird figure, to name a few. There are a plethora of masks, paintings, weapons, and textiles that also highlight cultures from Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Australia. Asian art and artifacts include Chinese sculpture, calligraphy, and decorative arts; Japanese lacquer, calligraphy, and painting; and South Asian sculptures.
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Are there any museums we may have missed out? Let us know in the comments.