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Between Two Worlds: The Untold Stories of Refugees From Laos
By Kandace Reed, ABC 10
July 26, 2022
A new traveling exhibit at the California Museum takes visitors on the journey of refugees from Laos escaping war and finding new homes in the U.S.
The California Museum is partnering with the Center for Lao Studies (CLS) to present a new traveling exhibit named ”Between 2 Worlds: Untold Stories of Refugees from Laos.”
The exhibit focuses on two ethnic Laotian groups, Lao and Iu Mien. It takes visitors on the journey of refugees from Laos escaping war and finding new homes in the U.S. It comes with photos, documents, cultural artifacts and video recordings of refugees’ telling their stories in their own words.
That includes “tracing their lives amidst U.S. bombings and other attempts to ‘contain’ communism in Southeast Asia and Laos, in particular, and of their journeys from their homes in Laos to reeducation camps, refugee camps, and United States.”
“Though Laotian Americans have been an important part of Sacramento for decades, many people outside the community remain unaware of their history,” said California Museum Executive Director, Amanda Meeker. “We are thrilled to be a venue where they can share their stories with visitors from many backgrounds.”
The idea for the exhibit grew out of CLS’ Lao Oral History Archive (LOHA), which began in 2009 and involved interviewing and recording the stories of more than 20 families from Laos who now live in the United States. CLS formed a team of cultural consultants, historians, museum professionals, graphic designers, media specialists, and writers who spent more than a year researching and planning the project prior to putting the physical exhibit together.
“The Between Two Worlds exhibit represents the culmination of years of work,” said CLS Executive Director and Project Co-Director, Dr. Vinya Sysamouth. “The LOHA project was so significant because it literally gave a voice to stories that had been kept silent for decades. Those who experience the exhibit will gain historical and contextual understanding of why refugees from Laos are in the United States.”
The exhibit is made possible through support from The McConnell Foundation, California Museum, California Humanities, and the Central Valley Community Foundation, as well as private donations.
“Sacramento is home to the largest Mien American community since the mid-1980s,” said Dr. Kal Phan, an Iu Mien community leader of Sacramento. “Though they arrived in America as refugees from a tribal preliterate society with minimal formal education and employable skills, they are achieving their American dreams today.”
See the full segment here.