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Museum of Chinese in America

About this listing

Pioneering museum with strong community base

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Chinatown
Institution, Historic Site & Museum

Place Matters Profile

The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is the first full-time, professionally-staffed museum n the Western Hemisphere dedicated to preserving and presenting the history and culture of Chinese immigrants and their descendants. The museum is not just interested in the past, but also in the contemporary lives of Chinese Americans. MOCA is distinctive in its commitment and ability to maintain a special dialogue and relationship with local Chinese communities, while at the same time reaching out to and serving the wider population.

MOCA’s Origins

John Kuo Wei (Jack) Tchen and Charlie Lai co-founded the museum in 1980, but its original moniker was the New York Chinatown History Project. Tchen and Lai met at Basement Workshops, one of the first Asian-American cultural organizations in New York, and their experience with projects pursued by Basement encouraged them to delve deeper into the Chinese American experience in New York City. When you tour...

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Adrienne Cooper and Mei-Lin Liu, "Salvaging the Past," Museum News (November/December, 1991), 50.

Elaine Louie, "A Little Museum that Could," New York Times (Jan. 25, 1996), C1.

J. Tevere MacFadyen, "Exploring a Past Long Locked in Myth and Mystery," Smithsonian (January 1983), 70.

MoCA flyers, program lists, etc.

[Posted by Place Matters, February 2007]

On The Web

MoCA website


Karen Lew

As a Native New Yorker who grew up in Chinatown, I’ve always felt a disconnect between what I learned in the classroom and my immediate surroundings. How ironic it was as a Chinese American going to grammar school in the middle of Chinatown and never being exposed to the history and development of Chinatown. MoCA fills this gap in American History. It was one of the first times in my life where I discovered my story had a place.

MoCA serves as a symbol of empowerment and reclamation in telling the narratives of those whose voices have traditionally been left out of the historical dialogue.

MoCA was founded as a community initiative where personal belongings were salvaged and histories and stories were pieced together. The building where the museum is currently located is an artifact in itself. The museum is located in a former public school building dating back to the 1890’s. However, the concept of MoCA is powerful and transcends its physical space. MoCA, to me, represents a space where ideas, narratives, and voices can be explored and validated. (January 2006)

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