Refugee Museum Exhibit Opens in Redding

Refugee Museum Exhibit Opens in Redding

October 13th, 2018  |  Published in Culture

The Center for Lao Studies (CLS) is pleased to announce the opening of the Between Two Worlds: Untold Stories of Refugees from Laos exhibit on October 6, 2018 at Turtle Bay Museum in Redding, CA. 

The exhibit, which will run from October 6, 2018 through January 13, 2019, is made possible through generous support from The McConnell Foundation, Turtle Bay Exploration Park, California Humanities, and the Central Valley Community Foundation, as well as private donations. ( Through photos, documents, cultural artifacts, and video recordings of first-person narratives, Between Two Worlds tells refugees’ stories in their own words, tracing their lives amidst U.S. bombings and other attempts to “contain” communism in Southeast Asia in general and Laos in particular, and of their journeys from their homes in Laos to reeducation camps, to refugee camps, to finding new homes in the United States.

The Center for Lao Studies 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 museum exhibit represents the culmination of years of work,” states Dr. Vinya Sysamouth, CLS Executive Director and Project Co-Director. 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. “The LOHA project was so significant,” continues Sysamouth, “because it literally gave a voice to stories that had been kept silent for decades. We realized that we wanted to share these and other stories with a wider audience, and so we developed the Between Two Worlds project. Those who experience the exhibit will gain historical and contextual understanding of why refugees from Laos are in the United States.”

The McConnell Foundation, which has its headquarters in Redding, has been engaged in development efforts in Laos for many years, with projects that include an access to justice initiative, community-based water resource management programs, and biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resources management programs. The McConnell Foundation also supports students who travel to Laos to learn Lao language and culture through CLS’ Study Abroad in Laos (SAIL) program, and works with the lowland Lao and Iu-Mien communities in Redding.

“Refugees from Laos have been in Shasta County for decades, yet many of their neighbors are unaware of their backgrounds and experiences,” comments Dr. Steve Arounsack, Project Co-Director. “We are so honored to partner with The McConnell Foundation in bringing awareness about the history, culture and contemporary realities of Lao refugees to the Redding and surrounding communities. Turtle Bay Museum is the ideal place to introduce the Between Two Worlds exhibit.”

Admission to the Between Two Worlds: Untold Stories of Refugees from Laos exhibit in Turtle Bay Museum is included in the cost of entrance fee to the greater Turtle Bay Exploration Park: Adults (Ages 16-64): $16 USD; Children (Ages 4-15): $12 USD; Seniors (Ages 65+): $12USD. The museum is open from 9am to 4pm Wednesday through Friday, and from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday (closed on Monday and Tuesday).


Project Team
Exhibit Coordinator: Alicia Akins
Project Co-Directors: Steve Arounsack and Vinya Sysamouth
Community Advisor: Bounlieng Phommasouvanh
General Project Coordinator: Sally Phonthachack
Graphic Designer: Dale Thongmahavong Phouvilay
Content Advisor: Prany Sananikone
Website Technical Director: Alisak Sanavongsay
Interactive Web/User Interface Designer: Nor Sanavongsay
Photographer/Videographer: Todd Sanchioni
Project Evaluator: Phoumy Sayavong
Redding Project Coordinator: Joanne Sengxay
Researcher/Editor: Christine Su
Curriculum Development Specialist: Ryan Wolfson-Ford