Society features

Asia Society Texas Announces $10.7 Million Interactive Exhibit

Houstonians will soon be able to travel by train across Asia, perform in a drum band and congregate at an Asian lunch counter, all without having to leave the comfort of their hometown.

At least that’s what Asia Society Texas hopes to accomplish when the organization next year installs “Explore Asia,” a new $10.7 million exhibit that aims to improve education about Asian and Asian American history and culture.

TOP CHOICES: The Ultimate Guide to Dining in Houston’s Asian Neighborhood

“The goal is to spark guest curiosity, build cross-cultural empathy among our guests and the content and culture they interact with, and develop global competencies, which are truly people-focused who understand our role at Houston and beyond, and how we are all global citizens,” said Jennifer Kapral, director of education and outreach for Asia Society Texas.

The permanent exhibit’s seven stations will be spread throughout the museum, re-imagining the visitor experience on the award-winning Museum Quarter campus. Visitors will begin their journey at an art gallery, board a train simulator that will take them on a “guided journey through time” and experience the performing arts by playing drums in the auditorium at rhythm of virtual dancers.

They can experience Asian cuisine at the gathering table in the museum café and visit “mini-museums” focusing on different elements of Asian cultures throughout the building, before ending their experience at the Reflection Garden, where visitors can contemplate what they learned and have their words reflected on the wall in front of them.

The project, which targets children and teens, also includes an online learning platform to help teachers guide students through lessons about Asia. This platform includes 14 graphic novels written by Asian artists on a range of historical topics and an educator portal with lesson plans, quizzes and other tools that teachers can incorporate into their curriculum.

Leaders at the Asia Society Texas envision educators teaching the online portion in the classroom, then bringing students to the exhibit for field trips.

NEWSLETTERS

Join the conversation with HouWeAre


We want to foster conversation and highlight the intersection of race, identity, and culture in one of America’s most diverse cities. Sign up for the HouWeAre newsletter here.


According to the US Census Bureau, 550,463 people living in the Houston Metropolitan Statistical Area reported being “Asian only” as a race, representing 7.89% of the area’s population.

“I think it’s quite unfortunate that there isn’t an offering like this of its kind right now,” said Bonna Kol, president of Asia Society Texas.

“We identified this gap early on and wanted to engage in research and work with academics and community groups to ensure that the experience we provide is truly authentic,” Kol said.

DATA DIVE: Asian Americans are the fastest growing demographic in suburban Houston. Here’s why.

The project began with an advisory board made up of Houston Independent School District leaders, educators, museum directors and business leaders, who worked with steering groups of students and teachers to design the project. exposure and components online.

Local community groups and university professors were consulted throughout the project to ensure that the material accurately reflected the countries represented, focusing on China, India, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam.

from Houston dynamic Asian populations won’t be left out either, with interactive elements at multiple stations in the exhibit bringing the material back to Houston. For example, visitors to the Gathering Table can scan QR codes to find out which local restaurants are serving the delicacies on display, and an upstairs area will feature the stories of Asian Americans alongside prominent Asians. of the whole world.

The exhibition is scheduled for spring 2023.

“Growing up, there was nothing to do with the things that represented my culture or the people I connected with from my home country,” said Kol, who was born in Cambodia and moved to Columbia, Mo. ., when she was 7 years old.

“To have an exhibit dedicated to Asia and Asian Americans, me and other Asian American parents can take our kids and really have a conversation with each other and with the community about the important things that make part of our identities,” Kol said.

sam.kelly@chron.com