Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History
            The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad
The Railroad Helped Build America

[New York, NY] September 30, 2019 – The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), a national cultural institution telling the untold stories in the making of America through the lens of the Chinese immigrant experience, announces two comprehensive exhibitions for Fall 2019 that highlight the critical pillars of research and work conducted across the U.S. to preserve Chinese immigrant contributions and communities to the American narrative:


  • Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History brings together, for the first time ever, historical artifacts from 28 Chinese American museums, historical societies and institutions across the U.S. These artifacts and the corresponding explanatory stories and text unveil critical periods in American history that are often forgotten. Featured organizations include Chinese Historical Society of America (San Francisco); Mai Wah Society (Butte, MT); Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience (Seattle); Wo Hing Museum and Cookhouse (Lahaina, HI); Chinese Historical Society of New England (Boston); and Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum (Cleveland, MS). Full list of organizations below.
  • The Chinese Helped Build The Railroad - The Railroad Helped Build America presents the collective journeys of over 12,000 Chinese laborers who were instrumental in building and connecting the Transcontinental Railroad and the resulting backlash against them once their contribution was completed in 1869.

“This year marks the 150th anniversary of an ill-recognized major milestone in U.S. history: the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and the associated memory loss of the Chinese immigrants who worked, sacrificed, and died to make it happen,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America. “By redefining and bringing attention to the triumphs of 1869 and the subsequent worst moments of discrimination in U.S. history, MOCA pioneers aspects of a new American narrative. By creating a collective voice and bringing together historical museums, societies, and projects from all points in America, MOCA quickens the pace to help redefine Americans’ understanding of U.S. history. At a time when immigration patterns between China and the U.S. are increasingly two-way transnational movements rather than one-way flows, MOCA presents the necessary historic context to enhance scholarly dialogue, strengthen personal connections, and increase collaborative work while providing access points for museum visitors to interact meaningfully and personally with the history and stories.”

Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History will tell the origin story of 28 historical societies, museums, temples, centers and projects from 13 U.S. states representing the East Coast, the Midwest, the Deep South, the West Coast, Pacific Northwest, and the Hawaiian islands, to name a few, that document and make public the history of Chinese throughout America. These spaces continue to be the steward of narratives that are often omitted from the discourse of American history. Their origin stories will be told through a single object or artifact each institution has chosen to loan from its collection for display at MOCA in what will be an historic gathering of such artifacts. This first-of-its-kind survey exhibition aims to explore the breadth, depth, and richness of organized documentation and collection of Chinese history in America and is part of MOCA’s yearlong initiative to commemorate the contributions of Chinese railroad workers in the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad 150 years ago.


Gathering is organized by MOCA’s curatorial team (Herb Tam, Curator and Director of Exhibitions, and Andrew Rebatta, Associate Curator) in collaboration with the 1882 Foundation (led by Ali Smith). It was advised by Sojin Kim, Curator at Smithsonian Center for Folk Life & Cultural Heritage, and David Lei, Independent Historian and Chair of the Chinese Performing Arts Foundation. For the online presentation of the historical artifacts, MOCA will be working closely with the 1882 Foundation and its 50 Objects Project, through the Tenement Museum’s Your Story, Our Story digital platform.


“Each artifact summons a founding story; each founding story speaks to each institution’s unique mission and work,” Mr. Tam said. “These organizations were founded as public history spaces to highlight and celebrate the under-recognized contributions of Chinese people to American history and culture. We are pleased to bring everyone together to share ideas, encourage each other, and show the diversity and unity within this ecosystem of Chinese American historical institutions.”


As part of the exhibition’s opening week of events, MOCA will be hosting a day-long symposium on Friday, October 18, 2019 with representatives of many of these spaces and notable scholars of Chinese American history to explore these organizations’ shared histories and future work. For an updated schedule, go to


Participating Organizations (as of 9/17/19):


Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation (San Francisco)
Asociacion China de Mexicali (Mexicali Baja, CA)\
Belleville Historical Society (Belleville, NJ)
China Alley Preservation Society (Hanford, CA)
Chinese American Museum Los Angeles (Los Angeles)
Chinese American Museum of Chicago (Chicago)
Chinese American Museum of Northern California (Marysville, CA)
Chinese Bunkhouse Preservation Project (Fremont, CA)
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Augusta (Augusta, GA)
Chinese Historical & Cultural Project (San Jose, CA)
Chinese Historical Society of America (San Francisco)
Chinese Historical Society of Memphis and the Mid-South (Memphis, TN)
Chinese Historical Society of New England (Boston)
Chinese Historical Society of Southern California (Los Angeles)
Chinese History Project (Fremont, CA)
Cumberland Chinese Cemetary (Cumberland, British Columbia, Canada)
Hawaii Chinese History Center (Honolulu, HI)
Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site (John Day, OR)
Locke Foundation (Locke, CA)
Mai Wah Society (Butte, MT)
Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum (Cleveland, MS)
Portland Chinatown Museum (Portland, OR)
San Diego Chinese Historical Society and Museum (San Diego)
Save Our Chinatown Committee (Riverside, CA)
Temple of Kwan Tai (Mendocino, CA)
Walk of Remembrance (Pacific Grove, CA)
Wing Luke Museum of the Asian American Experience (Seattle, WA)
Wo Hing Museum and Cookhouse/Lahaina Restoration Foundation (Lahaina, HI)


The Chinese Helped Build the Railroad – The Railroad Helped Build America is an historical exhibition that traces the Chinese contribution to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. Starting in 2012, photographer Li Ju visited sites along the route of the Transcontinental Railroad. This exhibition presents historical photographs alongside Li’s contemporary images of significant railroad sites to resurrect these stories and honor the achievements of the laborers. The exhibition is organized by the Adrian and Monica Yeung Arima Fund, Li Ju and the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford University. The exhibition has received the 2019 California Preservation Design Award.


For media inquiries and press images, or to attend the Press Preview of both exhibitions at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, October 16, email

For the latest news and updates, go to MOCA’s website or follow MOCA on Twitter and Instagram at @mocanyc and on Facebook at


Gathering: Collecting and Documenting Chinese American History and related programs are made possible with the generous support of the PLUS Charitable Trust Inc. and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and the following members of Phi Lambda: Y.P. Chan; Jerry Jianrong Chang and Qing Wang; Brian Chao and Lauren Chao in memory of Mae Eng Chao; Robert and Ann Chao; Ted Chao in memory of Diane Woo; Tom and Sophie Chen; Donald Chu; Phil You-Ling Fan and Roxy Ni Fan; Chung C. Fu; Justin Fung; Josette Lee Greechan in memory of Henry T.S. and Julia T. Lee; Jay Ho; Joseph Ho; Wen-Ning and Betty Hsieh in memory of Dr. and Mrs. Hien-Chee Fang; Carolyn Hsu-Balcer and Yuen Kan Hsu; Marjorie F. Hsu in honor of Richard and Gloria Chen Hsu; Bing Jib Huang; William and Rose Kaung; Patrick and Nancy Kuo; Omar, Christina, Calvin, Caleb and Lydia Lee; John and Mary Liu; Elaine Li Shiang in memory of Frederick Pei Li; The Shiang Family Trust in memory of Si Ta and Flora Shiang; Julian Suez in memory of Anthony T.Y. Wu; Ho Pong Wan in memory of Beau Desiree Wan; James Wong; Richard and Jaime Wong; Robert Wong and Andy Yip.


About the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)
The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) aims to engage audiences in an ongoing and historical dialogue, in which people of all backgrounds are able to see American history through a critical perspective, to reflect on their own experiences, and to make meaningful connections between: the past and the present, the global and the local, themselves and others.

MOCA is a proud partner of the New York City IDNYC card benefit program and Culture Pass, a program for cardholders of Brooklyn Public Library, New York Public Library, and Queens Library in which New Yorkers 13 and older can reserve passes and receive free admission to dozens of NYC cultural institutions.

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Sunday: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
MOCA Free First Thursdays: Free gallery admission on the first Thursday of each month, made possible through the generosity of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and J.T. Tai & Co. Foundation.


General Admission: $12
Seniors (65 and older with ID), Students (with school ID): $8
Children 2 and up: $8
Visitors with disabilities and a person accompanying them: Free
Cool Culture families: Free
MOCA Members: Free


In appreciation and recognition of MOCA’s roots in the Chinatown community, MOCA is pleased to provide “pay what you wish” admission fees to all residents of Chinatown and Two Bridges.