The Museum of Chinese in America

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 in the United States.

What a difference a year makes!

Saturday, January 2, 2010, while visiting my best friend in Switzerland for the New Year holiday, I heard my cell phone’s text message silent hum several times in the middle of the night. Thinking it was probably Happy New Year wishes from friends in the US, I went back to sleep.  Well, it wasn’t…..they were urgent messages from the staff that there was a fire next door to the Museum and although the Museum itself suffered no fire damage, we did sustain major water damage as the exhibition space is on the ground floor and the offices are located in the basement of the building. In a few hours, over 10,000 gallons of water were released from the sprinkler along with an unknown quantity from the fire hoses. The Museum had only opened its doors a little over 3 months earlier—talk about trial by fire, or in this instance trial by flood—and I worried that we would have to be closed for extended period in 2010 for major renovation. Thanks to the hard work of the staff, the board, insurance adjusters, architects and contractors, the disruption was kept to a minimum.


2010 Water damage by fire in Core Exhibition

Staff in classroom during renovation

For the entire month of July, as they renovated our office space, all of us huddled and worked together in the classroom with no walls or any cubicles dividing us—we really got to know each other well that month!  Major work was finally completed this fall. My hats off to the entire staff, volunteers and board for its resiliency and commitment. It’s through team work that we have gotten this far as an institution. The new MOCA is as beautiful and relevant as the day we opened to the public on September 22, 2009.

This past Monday, December 28, 2010, we battled the elements again when a blizzard threatened to shut down New York City. I am proud to report that we were able to open to the public despite the snow as three of us were able to get to the Museum. My assistant Sophia Ma ran admissions and the gift shop, our IT Director Frank Liu dug us out until the snow removal people came, and I did coat check.  Believe it or not, we actually had visitors—I had the pleasure of greeting Dr. and Mrs. Yu; a retired professor from the mid-west now living in San Francisco, the family brought three generations of Yu’s to MOCA. The Yu family was right there when we opened our doors at 11:45 am! They were thankful we were open and I was thankful they came.

On Sunday, January 2, 2011, exactly a year after the ‘flood’, MOCA hosted our first wedding in the Chow Cultural Programs Center as YinXia and Vincent were married here surrounded by their family and friends. The sinking feeling of doom and gloom from exactly one year ago has now been replaced by the joy of watching a lovely young couple make a commitment to begin their journey together as a family.  As YinXia’s parents, Zan and Eva, proudly posed in front of their family’s Journey Tile with their daughter and new son-in-law, I marveled at what a difference a year makes and what an exciting journey lies ahead for the newlyweds and for MOCA.

MOCA hosted a wedding for the first time in its space


Happy New Year!

S. Alice Mong, Director, MOCA

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