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Seattle's Wing Luke Museum to move and reopen exhibit that sparked staff walkout

caption: The Confronting Hate Together exhibit is displayed on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle.
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The Confronting Hate Together exhibit is displayed on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle.

Seattle's Wing Luke Museum will relaunch its controversial exhibit "Confronting Hate Together" following pushback from some of its employees. The exhibit won't be at the museum, however.

"Our plan is to identify a new venue," said Steve McLean with the Wing Luke Museum. "Once we know that venue, we will announce it. But at this point, we know that our museum wouldn't have the capacity to house this ... kind of relaunched exhibit."

RELATED: Wing Luke exhibit shows how Black, Asian, and Jewish Seattleites confront hate together

The museum posted a statement on its website. Read the full statement below. McLean told KUOW that the "Confronting Hate Together" exhibit will open later in summer 2024.

The exhibit "Confronting Hate Together" is the result of a partnership between the Wing Luke Museum, the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, and the Washington State Jewish Historical Society. It is aimed at exploring the different ways such communities have experienced hate and prejudice in the past, as well as more modern incidents of hate crimes.

Shortly after the exhibit opened in May, a portion of the museum's staff walked out in protest, arguing that the way Jewish hate was displayed did not take into account Palestinian perspectives.

“In a nutshell, there was a panel in particular that one of our partners had created and we had several staff who had concerns with some of the content, even though it was not intended to come across in a certain way," McLean said. "Staff had some strong beliefs about it and walked out in protest of that content … the museum doesn't censor content. We believe everyone has their truths and they have a right to tell their story. That is the goal of this exhibit, to allow these three communities that had been historically redlined together in this community to share their stories on how they confronted racism, hate, and antisemitism, and the strategies that they deployed to do so."

McLean added that the hope is that, as the exhibit travels to other museums, other communities would be inspired to add their own stories and perspectives, and therefore "it would have been more or less a beginning of having that community dialogue, and that dialogue just happened to take place within our own museum.”

The exhibit has since been revised with updates addressing staff concerns. It also prompted trainings for all of Wing Luke's staff.

"We saw this as an opportunity to explore some of the missing perspectives that were part of the the rationale for the walkout, both amongst the Palestinian and Muslim communities, also some further education about Zionism, anti-Zionism, antisemitism."

RELATED: Wing Luke Museum Executive Director Joël Barraquiel Tan discusses the staff walkout

McLean said that the museum was impacted by the staff walkout, and the closure that followed. Currently, the museum has reopened, but with limited hours with a goal of eventually operating six days a week. McLean said the museum is "on good footing, on good ground."

"It would be inaccurate to say we didn't sustain some losses; when you're a small entity like ours, you do sustain some losses. But we are committed to this exhibit," he said. "We are moving forward, being mindful of the fact that we did sustain a loss, but we are in good position."

Statement from Wing Luke Museum

There has been an overwhelming interest in and comment on the Confronting Hate Together (CHT) exhibit. It's inspiring to see how it has sparked passions and opportunities for deeper engagement. We have heard many individuals expressing everything from strong support and curiosity, to more extreme commentary that only strengthens our resolve.

With a commitment to the initial goals of the CHT exhibit and mindfulness of the complexities, we are exploring alternative venues that can host larger volumes of visitors and enable more interaction during facilitated conversations. This new venue will allow us to address concerns around public safety. We expect the exhibit to open later this summer and will announce the new venue soon.

The Black Heritage Society of Washington State, the Washington State Jewish Historical Society, and Wing Luke Museum together extend our gratitude to supporters and the community for their continued grace as we enhance the Confronting Hate Together exhibit and create additions to the panels that will provide more explanation of the genesis, shared experiences and response to the original opening.

KUOW's Dyer Oxley contributed to this article.

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