‘From Laos to America’ Museum reopens, searching for help

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 9:15 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - After being closed for a year and a half, the Wausau museum, From Laos to America, has reopened in a new location, but it’s facing new challenges.

From Laos to America Museum opened in its new location Aug. 29, right next to the Chamber of Commerce in the Third Street Lifestyle Center. It was previously located in the Wausau Center Mall for five years. Now the owner is looking towards the future and hoping to keep it in Central Wisconsin, but he needs some more help.

“When you get to be my age, you start looking down the road and thinking you better make careful plans for the future,” From Laos to America Museum Founder Jim Harris said.

Harris been running the museum for nearly six years, but being in his 70s, he said it’s time to start making some decisions looking forward.

“We have the largest collection of traditional Hmong and Lao artifacts in the country and I feel a real… responsibility to be the custodian of that collection,” Harris said.

Harris has been to Laos over 20 times and has collected different artifacts during each trip, ultimately creating the museum to what it is today. It made its move from the mall to across the street, this summer.

The Hmong American Center is thrilled with Harris’ work and dedication.

“We’re just glad to be able to be that hub, that location for individuals to come and learn about the Southeast Asian community, not just the Hmong community,” Hmong American Center Executive Director Yee Leng Xiong said.

Xiong and Harris work together to improve the museum. Now they’re turning their attention to the Wausau community to step up and preserve the museum long term.

“We’re invested in this and we want to make sure this place stays here in Central Wisconsin here so we’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s gonna continue,” Xiong said.

Harris has had offers to move the artifacts outside of Central Wisconsin including St. Paul and Milwaukee. He said it’s in his heart to be patient and keep the museum in Wausau, but it’s a big responsibility.

“If I don’t do something wise with it, it would be a loss to 300,000 people of Hmong heritage in America,” Harris said.

The From Laos to America Museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Third Street Lifestyle Center.

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