Museum Seeks Stories, Memories and Recollections about Significant Sites

MUSEUM OF CHINESE IN AMERICA (MOCA) UNVEILS NEW RESEARCH PROJECT, ARCHEOLOGY OF CHANGE FOR ITS 2008 EXHIBIT
 
New York, NY, November 7th, 2007 — Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), unveiled its new research project for its new exhibit, opening in 2008 in its new 14,000 square-foot space in Centre Street, New York, entitled, Archeology of Change.  The Museum is seeking stories, memories and recollections from the public about specific sites in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. 

MOCA has selected 5 symbolic and representative sites in Chinatown and are seeking to find consumers, shoppers, former and current residents, business owners, workers, and landlords to interview in order to gain a sense of the impact and consequences of neighborhood change and gentrification:
 

  • The Music Palace on 91-93 Bowery Street
    The Music Palace, the last of the Chinatown movie houses, closed for business until the year 2000 and has been torn down to make way for a new retail/residential development.
  • The Grand Machinery Exchange on 211-215 Centre Street & Machinery
    Exchange
    on Baxter and Hester Streets
    Part of Lower Manhattan’s thriving industrial landscape in the first half of the 20th Century, the former will be the space that MOCA will occupy in 2008, and the latter is being turned into high-end condominiums.
  • Phoenix Poultry Market, now the Solita Hotel, on Grand Street between Centre and Lafayette Streets
    The very same location which now houses a downtown hotel and replaces a live slaughterhouse for poultry, striking a stark contrast of historic functions.
  • The Jewish Daily Forward Building at 175 East Broadway
    Built in 1912 as a Socialist paper for Yiddish-speaking immigrants, the Forward (Forverts in Yiddish) moved out 24 years ago, succeeded by a Chinese church, but now operates as a luxury condominium building.
  • "Oltarsh" Building on Canal Street and Broadway
    Currently under development, this building used to house the Pearl River Mart, a Chinese import market, popular with New Yorkers and tourists alike. It was built as the Major Theatre, also known as Cinema Giglio which seated 600 people.

”MOCA’s move to Centre Street was our catalyst for this research project,” said Cynthia Lee, Vice-President, Exhibits, Education and Programs.  “We wanted to honor and document the archeology of MOCA’s change, and extend it to other significant landmarks around us to ask ourselves how these changes impact our community,” she said.
 
The community arts project, Archeology of Change: Mapping Tales of Gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown is collaboration between well- respected visual and community artist Tomie Arai and community artist and writer Lena Sze.  Arai and Sze seek to uncover the diversity and depth of stories about the neighborhood’s change and the force of gentrification.  Stories, photographs and recollections that the MOCA seeks will give its visitors greater insight to the changing ethnic and economic demographics of Chinatown, specifically the evolving functions and location that each address serves in people’s everyday lives.  Furthermore, with collected personal histories and artifacts, the Museum hopes to show everyday people’s lives are interwoven with their individual or family memories, and in the shaping of their conceptions of Chinatown as both a historic and ever-changing place.
 
“Gentrification is a really relevant topic in our ever-changing landscape, and documenting it through personal memories and stories will enable us to gain a better understanding of our archeology of change,” Lee concluded.
           
If you are interested in being interviewed (in English or Chinese) for this historic project, please call MOCA at 212-619-4785 or email Cynthia Lee at clee@mocanyc.org with your name, phone number or email address, and your relationship to one of the selected sites (e.g. former resident, present customer of business at this site).  We look forward to speaking with you to better understand and reflect the stories and histories that make Manhattan’s Chinatown such a compelling, dynamic place.
 
For press inquiries, please call 212-619-4785.  For more information about the MOCA, please visit www.mocanyc.org.