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Hindu Swastika Sparks Controversy at Irvine Museum
By Joanna Clay   |  Sep 24, 2010

Controversy flared up at Pretend City, a children’s museum in Irvine, when a few visitors recently complained about a Hindu swastika woven on a tapestry in one of the museum’s exhibits.

The offended visitors apparently were unaware that the swastika is an old religious symbol in Hinduism and that members of many other cultures around the globe revere it, among them some Native Americans. The swastika, however, was co-opted by Nazi Germany as the centerpiece of the Third Reich’s flag.

The tapestry is part of the museum’s “Home” exhibit, which is displaying a Hindu family’s belongings. The exhibit rotates every six months and takes cultural objects from local family homes and displays them to the public, allowing Orange County visitors to see how different families live. The last family was Chinese and Vietnamese, and, in late November, the museum will put on an exhibit of an Orthodox Jewish family’s belongings.

The tapestry had been on display since July 27, but was taken down temporarily on Aug. 31. On Wednesday, the museum put the tapestry back up and posted a related statement on Facebook. That’s where much of the clamor about the swastika had been expressed through on-line comments that sparked a debate on the importance of education and cultural awareness.

“The complaints we initially received about the tapestry helped us realize that the static explanation of this symbol in the Home was not sufficient to effectively educate our guests about this subject,” Pam Shambra, Pretend City’s president, said on Facebook.

“We had heard from people that it was unpleasant to them,” she told the Daily Pilot. “We felt that there was probably a better way we could communicate the symbol. We took it down and immediately started working on a better way to display it.”

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