Museum of Chinese in America

Museum of Chinese in America

The museum in 2015
Established 1980
Location 215 Centre Street
New York, NY 10013
Type Art, Cultural, History museum
Director Nancy Yao Maasbach
Curator Herb Tam
Public transit access Subway: Canal Street, 2 blocks away (    trains)
Website Official website

The Museum of Chinese in America (traditional Chinese: 美國華人博物館; simplified Chinese: 美国华人博物馆; pinyin: Měiguó Huárén Bówùguǎn; Jyutping: Mei5gwok3 Waa4jan4 Bok3mat6gun2; abbreviated MOCA) is a museum in New York City which exhibits Chinese American history. It is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) education and cultural institution that presents the living history, heritage, culture, and diverse experiences of Chinese Americans through exhibitions, educational services and public programs.


Founded in 1980 in Manhattan's Chinatown (紐約華埠), the museum began as the New York Chinatown History Project by historian John Kuo Wei Tchen and community resident and activist Charles Lai to promote a better understanding of the Chinese American experience and to address the concern that "the memories and experiences of aging older generations would perish without oral history, photo documentation, research and collecting efforts."[1]

In 2005, the museum was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.[2][3]

The museum moved to a new site at 215 Centre Street in 2009.[4] It increased in size by sixfold, in a space that was designed by architect Maya Lin.[5][6] The curator and director of exhibitions as of May 31, 2011 is Herb Tam.[7] The permanent exhibition, With a Single Step was designed by Matter Practice.[8]


The core exhibition With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America traces more than 160 years of Chinese American history and is augmented annually with two to four rotating exhibitions on thematic, historic, and artistic subjects.

The Museum in January 2015 presented Waves of Identity: 35 Years of Archiving.[9] The title of the exhibit was inspired by a Chinese proverb, “Each wave of the Yangtze River pushes at the wave ahead.” [10]




MOCA has amassed a nationally-significant collection of materials documenting Chinese life in America. Beginning as what the Smithsonian Magazine described as "a cultural rescue mission to save a little-known immigrant heritage," MOCA’s collection has grown to document the changing profile of Chinese America—from its humble beginnings in the 19th century to its dynamic presence today. Collections and Research Center houses more than 65,000 artifacts, photos, memorabilia, documents, oral histories, and art work. This expansive array of archival material enriches the history of Chinese in America for our visitors in ways both rigorously academic and profoundly personal.[12]

Research Center

The Museum’s previous gallery space on 70 Mulberry Street is retained and transformed as an archival center and serves as a research center, open to anyone with a desire to learn or research Chinese American history. Online, the general public, students, educators, and scholars alike can find a host of features, such as Web-based versions of gallery exhibitions (including the core exhibit, The Chinese American Experience); and a comprehensive, interactive timeline of Chinese American history; downloadable resources on topics such as immigration and diversity are also available.[13]

Special collections

Special collections include:[14]

Name of Collection About Collection
Recovering Chinatown: The 9/11 Collection[14] Recovering Chinatown: The 9/11 Collection includes images, videos, oral history, brochures, posters, reports, books, scrapbooks, T-shirts, and other artworks that the museum began collecting shortly after the tragic events of September 11 from residents, photographers, artists, writers, teachers, students, workers, and stakeholders of New York’s Chinatown. This collection hosts a truly inclusive historical documentation that reflects the impact of the September 11 attacks on Chinatown, a neighborhood just ten blocks away from Ground Zero, and its residents.
Fly to Freedom Collection[14] MOCA’s Fly to Freedom Collection includes 173 paper sculptures created by passengers of the ship Golden Venture. The Golden Venture ran aground on June 6, 1993 and a significant portion of the nearly 300 passengers were held in detention by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, some for up to four years. Detainees created sculptures first as gifts to pro-bono lawyers who took up their cases, and later, to pass time during their days spent incarcerated.
Oral History Collection[14] MOCA conducted approximately 350 interviews that make up its 7 oral history collections: 1. Archaeology of Change: Mapping Tales of Gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown; 2. The Chino-Latino Project; 3. Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance; 4. Many Voices, One Humanity; 5. 8th Avenue – Sunset Park Oral History Collection; 6. 9/11 Chinatown Documentation Project; 7. Miscellaneous Oral History Collection. These interviews were conducted between 1980 and 2013, documenting memories and narratives related to the Chinese American experience. These interviews were digitized and transcribed from various formats but primarily from cassette tapes found and stored on-site at MOCA’s Collections & Research Center.
Marcella Dear Collection[14] Donated in 2006 by a longtime museum supporter and New York Chinatown resident, the Marcella Chin Dear collection includes dozens of textiles, hundreds of imported books, numerous boxes of old records, posters, game sets, instruments, family photographs and letters, store signs, ceramics, pieces of furniture, and tools from the family’s home and businesses. This collection is particularly rich as the Chin family remained in New York Chinatown for five generations straight.
Qipao/Cheongsam Collection[14] Graciously donated by Pamela Chen, MOCA’s first qipao/cheongsam collection includes 77 Chinese dresses that were custom-tailored in the 1930s and 1940s and once owned by her mother, Phoebe Shou-Heng Chen (1917–1993). Donated by Angela King and her sister Fern Tse, MOCA’s second qipao/cheongsam collection includes 367 family dresses. Angela King’s mother was a fashion designer, and whatever she wore, she had something to do with the design, usually ordering specific requirements from China. MOCA donated 262 pieces from this collection to the New York Chinese Cultural Center in 2012.
Hazel Ying Lee Collection[14] Comprising primary artifacts including original personal photographs, family letters, documents, newspaper articles, and memorabilia, Hazel Ying Lee’s remarkable but relatively anonymous life story as a pioneer Chinese American woman aviator during the 1930s and 1940s is brought to the fore through this collection, donated by Hazel’s sister, Frances M. Tong, and filmmaker Alan H. Rosenberg.
CMTA Collection[14] The Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association (CMTA) collection is composed of approximately 26 intricate opera costumes, 24 rare musical instruments, 20 pairs of shoes, 20 hats, 41 fabric samples, 6 shawls, 21 stage props, and numerous related documents. These items bring to life the Cantonese opera clubs that flourished in North America’s Chinatowns from the 1930s to the present. They serve as portals into the cultural and social legacy of a 130+ year-old aural and visual operatic tradition of the Chinese diaspora. Currently underutilized, these items also reveal how Chinese immigrants adapted this traditional form to their modern settings (e.g., adoption of western instruments in the 1930s), as well as how opera clubs became a cultural focal point in the lives of immigrants.

Legacy Awards Gala

At MOCA's 2015 Legacy Awards Gala, the museum paid tribute to Benefactors and Builders for creating foundations for a better world, and celebrating their outstanding achievements and contributions to the ongoing legacy of Chinese in America. Honorees were the C.V. Starr Scholars (The Starr Foundation with recognition by Savio Tung, Chief Investment Officer of Investcorp), Nancy Kwan (Hong Kong-born, American actress who played a pivotal role in the acceptance of actors of Asian ancestry in major Hollywood film roles), and William C. Louie (Founding Design Partner of the worldwide architectural firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates).[15]

2014 honorees have included:[16]

2013 honorees have included:[16]

2012 honorees have included:[16]

2011 honorees have included:[16]

2010 honorees have included:[16]

2009 honorees have included:[16]

See also


  1. "About Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Museum of Chinese in America. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  2. Roberts, Sam (2005-07-06). "City Groups Get Bloomberg Gift of $20 Million". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  3. Carnegie Corporation of New York Gift
  4. Rothstein, Edward (September 21, 2009). "Reopened Museum Tells Chinese-American Stories". The New York Times.
  5. Justin Davidson (2009-08-23). "Maya Lin's Big Dig". New York. Retrieved 2010-07-15.
  6. "MOCA On The Move: Creating A National Museum". Retrieved 9 December 2015.
  7. "Press release: MOCA Announces Appointment of New Curator & Director of Exhibitions". Museum of Chinese in America. 2011-05-10. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
  8. "Reopened Museum Tells Chinese-American Stories".
  10. "WAVES OF IDENTITY: 35 YEARS OF ARCHIVING | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved December 9, 2015.
  11. "Current Exhibitions | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved 2016-10-17.
  12. "Collections | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  13. "About | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Highlights | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  15. "MUSEUM OF CHINESE IN AMERICA'S 2015 LEGACY AWARDS GALA TO HONOR 'BENEFACTORS & BUILDERS' | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved 2015-12-09.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "2015 MOCA Legacy Awards Gala | Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)". Retrieved 2015-12-09.

Coordinates: 40°42′58″N 73°59′58″W / 40.71611°N 73.99944°W / 40.71611; -73.99944

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