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.

“All the News That’s Fit to Print”…And Then Some: the Publications Collection at the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

MoCA Blog Guest Post by K. Ian Shin

For the last nine months, a team of interns has been working diligently within the archives of the Museum of Chinese in America (MoCA) on a veritable treasure trove of periodicals produced by and for the Chinese American community. The sheer size of the collection is daunting, but also one of its most exciting features: MoCA holds a total of 67 boxes, filled variously with newspapers, magazines, and other publications such as pamphlets, flyers, and calendars. So far, the interns have collectively inventoried and accessioned about 3,500 issues, and there is still much more to do! In this blog post, we would like to introduce you to this impressive collection and to some of its highlights.

What is most immediately striking about MoCA’s periodicals collection is its diversity: the newspapers, magazines, and other publications showcase the multiple voices in the Chinese American community. Chinese American high school and university students were among the most surprisingly prolific writers and publishers: MoCA holds publications by student organizations from Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton, Queens College, SUNY Stony Brook, UC Berkeley, UCLA, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Yale. Many of these trace the contours of the student activism in the 1960s and 1970s that, riding the wave of the civil rights movement, established Asian Americans as a political and social force in the United States. Their staple-bound, sometimes handwritten materials are completely unlike the glossy and glamorous lifestyle magazines of the 1980s and 1990s such as Rice, AsiAm, and Transpacific, which heralded the arrival of mainstream, well-heeled Asian American consumers and their taste for American fashion, music, and movies. In between these two ends of the spectrum are publications like the news-and-culture magazine Chinese American Forum, of which MoCA holds roughly two decades dating back to the 1980s. Chinese American Forum shows a community with feet planted firmly in both the old and the new: one article might expound on the intricacies of Confucian philosophy while another in the same issue celebrates the election of S.B. Woo as Delaware’s lieutenant governor in 1985. Taken together, these publications form a complex mosaic that tells the story of the Chinese journey to and in America.

While most of the periodicals in the collection touch on the traditional centers of Chinese American life in New York and California, a few of the more distinctive items give a sense of not only how widely the Chinese migrated around the world but also how interconnected this diaspora was. In MoCA’s collection, publications such as the annual journals and programs of the chambers of commerce, the Chinese American Restaurant Association of Greater New York, and the Asian/Pacific American Heritage Festival reveal both the richness and the evolution of social and cultural life in Chinatowns in New York City and San Francisco. Chinese settlement in other areas in the Americas and the world is well-documented within MoCA’s collection as well.  For example, MoCA holds almost four decades of Chinatown News, a weekly news-magazine published in Vancouver, Canada. Interestingly, at least half of the cover stories of this magazine are devoted to one Chinese beauty pageant or another, some in Canada but many more from communities throughout the United States. The publication that has traveled perhaps the farthest to come to MoCA hails from South Africa: in the last days of the country’s racist apartheid regime, the September 27, 1990 issue of the Transvaal Chinese Association newsletter reminds us that the Chinese, too, suffered discrimination and violence — “intense, directionless and senseless” — and hoped to be “part of the New South Africa.”

From community hospitals in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, to Asian Americans living with HIV/AIDS, to the “art and science “ of Chinese cooking: MoCA’s publications collection truly reflects the motto of the New York Times — “All the news that’s fit to print” — and then some. The MoCA interns who have been laboring on this project are Nicole Kozlowski, Ian Shin, and Chris Yang. In painstakingly inventorying and scanning each issue into the museum’s archival database, we hope that future researchers will be able to easily access and take advantage of the extensive Chinese and Asian American print culture in the research library at the Museum of Chinese in America.

Filed under: Collections, MOCA, , , , , , , , ,

“Successful future as bright and beautiful as tapestry”

If you were to read the writing on the walls, you’d know what’s on their minds: “read ten thousand books and walk ten thousand miles to seek knowledge”; “to get promotion continuously/to attain eminence step by step”; “successful future as bright and beautiful as tapestry”—these are some of the words chosen by the young artists to display in this, the second annual Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC and the Asian Mentoring Committee’s Fundraiser. As with last year’s event the “Littles” (mentees involved in the program) created unique pieces of art under the guidance of their “Bigs” (program mentors.) This year, acclaimed author and artist Mingmei Yip taught calligraphy workshops to the pairs, instructing the Littles in the art of Chinese brushwork. To create their final piece, each Little wrote out a traditional Chinese proverb that held personal meaning. Their work was then framed and installed in the classroom of the Museum of Chinese in America. (On display through summer 2011.)

This artwork, and the efforts of BBBS of NYC and the AMC, was celebrated with a fundraiser on May 18 at MOCA. Hector Batista, Executive Director of BBBS of NYC, welcomed guests to kick-off the evening. Friends and fans mingled while enjoying food and drink. Traditional music performed by Wukun Li (Pipa), Tingting Chen (Gu Zheng) and Wen Li (Dulcimer) entertained guests, and inspiring speaker Cambao De Duong shared his life experiences.  The evening, like the proverbs promised, was a great success. We sincerely thank all of the dedicated volunteers who gave their time, as well as sponsors and partners including Fay Da Bakery, Filled with Sweets Desserts, Khao Tip Restaurant, Paleewong Trading Co., PepsiMax, Red Egg, and Taiwan Beer.

On Saturday, May 21 the Museum again welcomed Bigs, Littles and their families to an Artists’ Reception. Through their interactions, we saw first-hand how a successful one-to-one mentorship positively affects the lives surrounding our matches, as parents and siblings celebrated alongside the proud artists. This event included tasty treats from the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, as well as gift bags including prizes from ChinaSprout, L’Oreal, and McDonalds.

Artist Littles pose with their pieces

The Museum of Chinese in America was proud to host both events, to witness the growth of previous participants and welcome new matches, and to once again reach out to the adult community of BBBS and AMC supporters as well as the youth and families matched through BBBS. We truly believe that the Littles will have a successful future through hard work, dedication and the support of families, friends and mentors and we look forward to future opportunities to support AMC’s efforts in “Inspiring a Future, Today!”

Filed under: MOCA, Public Programs, , ,

The Travelers Giveaway: Exclusive MOCA Traveling Tote!

We’re kicking off a contest series for The Travelers, an ongoing project and upcoming exhibition by artist Lee Mingwei, who custom-made 100 notebooks that are being circulated internationally. The books are meant to travel for one calendar year, passed on like chain letters, documenting stories. Participants are asked to write stories about the concept of “leaving home,” which will be available for visitors to read once the project has reached completion and is installed at MOCA.

Get involved on the web! This month’s question:

Where do you currently call home? How did you or your family first arrive there/here?

Leave your story in the comments below and be eligible to win this exclusive MOCA traveling tote! Please include your e-mail address in the appropriate field when you respond and submit your answer before next Monday, June 13, 2011. MOCA Staff will choose a lucky winner who responds with the most compelling story! Open to international readers.

Happy traveling!

This post is part of the blog series by artist Lee Mingwei, whose art project The Travelers, a MOCA commission, is ongoing through September 12, 2011.  In the project, Mingwei invites participants to write down their stories of “leaving home;” in this blog series, we turn to Mingwei and ask him to share his.

Filed under: Exhibitions, Lee Mingwei’s Blog for The Travelers, , , , ,

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