Museum of Chinese in America

Museum of Chinese in America or MOCA, is a 1980-established non-profit education and cultural institution. Founded by historian John Kuo Wei Tchen and community activist Charles Lai, its main goal is to document Chinese life in America, from its humble beginnings in the 19th century to its presence today.

Mission and History

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Having brought together over a century of Chinese American history, its mission is to make it accessible to the general public, as well as to inform, educate and engage visitors about the history that is in the making. This includes the heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States. As noted by the founders, it’s the “concern that the memories and experiences of ageing older generations would perish without oral history, photo documentation, research and collecting efforts”. The museum moved to the current site at 215 Centre Street in 2009, with the entrance facing Chinatown, adding that much more to the experience. Designed by architect Maya Lin curated by Herb Tam, it’s open to the public and features various exhibitions, educational and cultural programs on a regular basis.

Exhibitions

There are two to four annual rotating exhibitions on thematic, historical, and artistic subjects. This includes core exhibition featuring 160 years of Chinese American history that’s called With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America. The core exhibition is open to the public until December 31, 2020, and is organised thematically and chronologically by sections. There visitors will learn more about a) the relationship between China and the US, and its impact on Chinese Americans, b) how Chinese Americans have perceived themselves in American society (and been perceived) over time, and c) the impact of Chinese Americans on American politics, culture, and life. Having opened for the first time in the new location designed by Maya Lin, they claim: “It will facilitate a new way of interacting with content: through the evocative use of space that stirs visitors’ emotions and breaks down barriers to deeper learning and understanding.”

Collections

Together with the research centre, which is now at the museum’s previous gallery space at 70 Mulberry Street, the organisation houses more than 65,000 letters and documents, business and organisational records, oral histories, clothing and textiles (Marcella Dear Collection and Qipao/Cheongsam Collection), photographs and precious artefacts. This includes the Recovering Chinatown: The 9/11 Collection, more than 350 interviews in their 7 oral history collections, Hazel Ying Lee Collection, which documents history of the first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military, and The Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association (CMTA) Collection, which features over 25 intricate opera costumes, 24 rare musical instruments and more. Donations are accepted to this date.

Education Programmes

Located in Downtown Manhattan, the Museum of Chinese in America is open every day except Monday. Visitors can buy general admission passes or get in for free on first Thursday of each month. This also includes group and self-guided group tours, as well as family festivals, workshops and education programmes for students. MOCA’s official site also has an interactive timeline of the history with some of the main highlights.

Visiting Museum of Chinese in America

Location: 215 Centre Street, New York City, NY, 10013

Click here to visit Museum of Chinese in America official website

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