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Originally published February 10, 2013 at 7:00 PM | Page modified February 10, 2013 at 7:49 PM

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Wing Luke now partner with park service

Outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Sunday designated Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience an “affiliated area” of the National Park Service.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The future of Seattle’s Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience now depends not just on people, but on a couple of round red doll heads, each about the size of a basketball.

The hollow Daruma dolls, symbols of good fortune — and of a journey beginning — were the center of attention Sunday at the close of an event that drew a crowd of 400, filling the museum’s auditorium, theater and lobby to hear dignitaries including two U.S. senators, two members of Congress and a phalanx of federal and museum officials.

One of the bright Daruma dolls will stay at the museum, the other will go to the National Park Service, the federal agency with which the museum is now allied.

That alliance became official Sunday as outgoing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a document designating the museum a National Park Service “affiliated area.”

Salazar also directed the park service to do a “theme study” of other aspects of the Asian-Pacific experience that could be better represented in national parks.

Salazar said both actions are part of an effort under President Obama “to recognize and celebrate our diversity here in America.”

Similar efforts, he said, have been made to help portray the contributions of Latinos and African Americans.

The move doesn’t make the museum a national park, but it can help with technical or financial assistance, and create opportunities to work with the park service on projects.

“This is the perfect addition to the family,” said National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, welcoming the museum to share “our brand, our story, our support.”

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, who played a lead role in seeking the museum designation, said, “Now we’re on the map. The whole country’s going to know about what he have here and what has been created in this city.”

“Museums are often thought of as buildings,” McDermott said. “You bring in artifacts and ancient things and stick them in there and people come in and look around. This is not that kind of museum. This is the home of the Asian Pacific community.”

Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray also congratulated the museum, as did Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue, whose redrawn 9th District now includes the Chinatown International District, formerly in McDermott’s territory.

Nationwide, the park service’s 24 other “affiliated areas” cover a wide variety of themes, including the Inupiat people of Alaska and a “peace garden” on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba.

The Seattle museum’s namesake is the late Wing Luke, a Seattle City Council member in the 1960s who became the first Asian American to hold elected office in the Northwest. He died in a plane crash in 1965.

Three of his sisters, Ruby Luke, Bettie Luke and Marge Young, attended Sunday’s event.

Beth Takekawa, the museum’s executive director, explained the significance of the Daruma dolls: She had Salazar and Jarvis, along with museum board co-presidents Ellen Ferguson and Casey Bui, paint in one eye of each doll.

The dolls’ other eyes, she said, are to be painted in once their journey is considered complete.

Salazar leaves office next month. Last week, President Obama nominated REI CEO Sally Jewell to replace him. On Sunday, Salazar, a former senator from Colorado, called the selection “a spectacular choice,” saying Jewell has a keen understanding of conservation and economic issues.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or jbroom@seattletimes.com

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