Last week, OHNY visited The Museum of Chinese in America, in Chinatown, which opened in their Maya Lin-designed space this past September. Founded in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent here in the US. Their new home at 215 Centre Street showcases their unique collection, spanning 160 years of Chinese American history. Their old gallery space on 70 Mulberry Street is still an archival space for researching Chinese American history.

Front entrance to MOCA

Designed by artist and architect Maya Lin, MOCA’s new 14,000 square-foot space was formerly a machine shop. The renovation transformed it into exhibition galleries, with interactive display kiosks and multipurpose classrooms. In the center of the space is a brick courtyard, with a skylight, that has been left deliberately untouched to represent a traditional Chinese courtyard house. The rest of the galleries wrap around this central courtyard and stairs lead downstairs to the classrooms and offices. The Museum expects to achieve LEED SILVER certification through the incorporation of environmentally sustainable design solutions throughout their space.

Interactive video wall

The Museum promotes dialogue and provides a space for people to learn and share about the evolving story of Chinese in America through its innovative exhibitions. This includes a wall of interactive videos that highlight the experience of various well-known figures in the Chinese-American community, including fashion designer Anna Sui, TV journalist Ti-Hua Chang and writer and New York Times contributor Jennifer 8. Lee.

These touch screens allow visitors to hear different stories and many other exhibits involve touch screens or audio components, many of which you can hear as you walk through the space. There was one exhibit about the evolution of Chinese food menus where one could hear a radio ad for La Choy food products. Hearing all the different voices in various galleries, as visitors interact with the exhibits, gives a unique feeling of the myriad journeys and expansiveness of the Chinese American diaspora, echoing from the walls.

Visitors at MOCA

More than 60,000 letters and documents, business and organizational records, oral histories, clothing and textiles, photographs and precious artifacts make up MOCA’s collection, providing the public with a unique resource. To find out more about visiting MOCA, please see their website.

The Museum of Chinese in America
215 Centre Street, New York, NY

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