This year, many Americans will be missing out in the cultural gifts we often associate with the holiday season. With most theaters and music halls shut down to limit the spread of COVID-19, other places including museums are serving the community by ways of virtual events. This has been the case for the Wing Luke Museum in the Chinatown International District 

“The plan is to reopen our exhibits on December 14th. But it all depends on when the governor deems safe to do so,” said Shaun Mejia, marketing manager for the Wing Luke Museum. “It would be great to give the public a chance to come back before Christmas.” 

But with the current state-wide COVID-19 restrictions, Mejia says the museum, which has been a mainstay in the CID for over 50 years, must prepare for a different kind of holiday season. 

“Even though our exhibits are currently closed to the public, our marketplace is still open on the weekends, from Friday to Sunday 10 to 5 PM,” said Mejia. “We also have to limit the capacity inside the shop to 25 percent. But now more than ever, it’s so important to support the artists and small business owners whose merchandise are sold at the Marketplace. Most of them are people of color and from the Pacific Northwest.” 

Outside the Wing Luke Museum’s Marketplace. Photo by Jill Wasberg.

Mejia said Wing Luke has aggressively pivoted operations to continue to offer patrons an engaging “museum experience” even if the visitors can’t be there in person. Like other museums, the staff has expanded and enhanced digital content on their website. One virtual holiday offering at the Wing is the “Book-O-Rama” event. Every weekend through early December, there are book readings and other interactive events offered online for patrons of all ages. 

On November 21, pioneering AAPI advocate, journalist, historian and International Examiner board president Ron Chew hosted an online reading of his memoir, My Unforgotten Seattle. Chew is also the Wing Luke’s former executive director. And on December 5th, Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, will be part of an online Book-O-Rama’s event, where she read from her newest title Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee. Alongside her, author Douglas Palmer will share excerpts from his new book, Bruce Lee: Sifu, Friend, and Big Brother. The book details his long friendship with the martial arts superstar and the time they spent together in Seattle and with Lee’s family in Hong Kong. 

The Wing Luke Museum also continues to offer other digital content, including a 45- minute live virtual tour of its historic building with the help of education guides. The ticket price is $11 dollars and tours are offered on most Thursdays through the end of the year. For $30, the museum is also offering “A Dinner Date with History”, an event where registered patrons can zoom in for an evening of food and history with live cooking demonstrations by a local chef. 

“During normal times these would be events where people can come join us at the museum in person,” said Mejia. “It’s tough but we still have to make money and we are working to make our programs as beneficial and engaging as possible even though they are being offered online.” 

Mejia went on to say that the live virtual tours and the Marketplace online shop has been among the most successful so far. The Marketplace Holiday Catalog offers customers everything from books to jewelry to homegoods with special discounts throughout November and December. 

“We are just going with the flow and we are fortunate enough to be able to move most of our programs online,” said Mejia. “It’s been a lot of experimentation, seeing what other museums are doing well. It’s been a trial and error process to see what keeps people interested and get them to come back and experience what we are all about, even if it’s just online for now”. 

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