Central Wisconsin is now home to a newly remodeled Laos to America Museum.
The state is one of the largest concentrations of Hmong Americans in the country, third behind California and Minnesota.
It officially reopened in late November after being forced to close at its original location at the Wausau Center Mall when the shopping center shut down, reported WSAW.
According to WPR, the museum is the brainchild of the former principal at Weston Elementary School, Jim Harris.
He welcomed nearly 150 Hmong American students to the school in the 1990s and decided to travel to Laos in an effort to locate their missing relatives.
He gathered many artifacts on his first trip in 2000 which are now housed at the museum. While in Laos, he heard stories of unexploded bombs left in the ground from the U.S. Secret War in Laos. He and his wife Marty went on to form the non-profit We Help War Victims. Its goal is to remove those explosives which even today are blamed for many deaths.
Since 2003, he has made an annual trip to Laos.
The Museum is run by the Hmong American Center.
“We have heard from other organizations from California, from the Twin Cities, from Milwaukee, who have expressed interest in taking ownership of (the collection),” Yee Leng Xiong, director of the Hmong American Center, said to WPR. “But Jim and Marty Harris wanted to stay in central Wisconsin, because it started here.”
“We are so lucky to have this museum that helped stitch together the Hmong communities rich cultural history here in Wausau,” Wausau Mayor Katie Rosenberg said to WAOW. “So that students families and visitors can learn from the past while figuring out what their future holds.”
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