Unity Museum: A Life's Mission

January 12, 2023 at 1:49 p.m.
Zabine Van Ness with college students at the Unity Museum in Seattle's University District
Zabine Van Ness with college students at the Unity Museum in Seattle's University District

...by Judy Rohm

Meet 80-year-old Zabine Van Ness, a bold entrepreneur and activist. Her activism is inspired by her life experiences and a vision of promoting a world free of prejudice and a world united in achieving global peace.

Zabine founded the Unity Museum in Seattle’s University District as part of her goal to promote global peace. The museum has been called “The Best Little Secret on The Ave” -- it focuses on social justice issues, features ongoing and rotating exhibits, speaker programs, a library, meditation room, outreach programs, and even just a place to hang out in the lounge.

An exhibit at the Unity Museum


Zabine’s early childhood in war-ravaged Germany during WWII was a time spent in cellars during bombing raids, facing starvation and freezing temperatures. At three years old, she remembers walking beside her mother who was pushing a baby carriage when a plane descended and started shooting at them. Her mother pushed her into a ditch and protectively covered her with her own body, leaving them terrified. Zabine also remembers Russian soldiers commandeering her family home in Dresden, imprisoning her great grandmother in the attic to starve. She recalls going to school with bombed-out windows, with no heat or books, and little to eat. She empathizes with the innocent civilians in war ravaged countries, especially now in Ukraine.
Zabine’s life experiences have inspired her to dedicate her life to promote social justice causes. She has traveled to more than 65 countries working to establish humanitarian agencies. During her travels she was inspired by the visionary principles she found in the Baha’i Faith, which emboldens her activism.  

Currently, Zabine is focused on serving as the co-founder and executive director of the Unity Museum. She has been dreaming and planning for this museum’s actualization for the past 40 years. Her goals and the goals of the museum are to celebrate humanity, work toward social justice and global peace.

This non-profit museum is always free to visit, and welcomes everyone. The musuem depends on its all-volunteer staff who are inspired by its vison. Zabine finds that youth and college-age students are especially inspired to visit and to engage in lively conversations. These conversations inspire reflection and action to create a better future.

The in-house and the travelling exhibits and lectures are available to schools, libraries and civic centers.

Zabine encourages all who are interested to visit the Unity Museum and also to consider volunteering.

Zabine Van Ness encourages visitors to come to the museum, and even to consider volunteering


The Unity Museum is located at 4341 ½ University Way in Seattle’s U District, upstairs across the street from the University Bookstore. It is open 11am to 2pm Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 206-390-9982 or visit https://unitymuseum.org.

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