Recovering Chinatown: The 9/11 Collection
Recovering Chinatown: The 9/11 Collection includes images, videos, oral history, brochures, posters, reports, books, scrapbooks, t-shirts, and other artworks that the museum began collecting shortly after the tragic events of September 11th from residents, photographers, artists, writers, teachers, students, workers, and stakeholders of New York’s Chinatown. This collection hosts a truly inclusive historical documentation that reflects the impact of the September 11 attacks on Chinatown, a neighborhood just ten blocks away from Ground Zero, and its residents. A great amount of the varied objects from this collection were chosen and displayed at the MOCA Jundy and Tin An Cheng Salon, as well as the online exhibition Chinatown POV: Reflections on September 11th.
Fly to Freedom Collection
MOCA’s Fly to Freedom Collection includes 123 paper sculptures created by passengers of the ship Golden Venture. The Golden Venture ran aground on June 6, 1993 and a significant portion of the nearly 300 passengers were held in detention by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, some for up to four years. Detainees created sculptures first as gifts to pro-bono lawyers who took up their cases, and later, to pass time during their days spent incarcerated. Sculptures vary in design and subject matter, including simple pineapples to more complex forms like eagles, which supporters began to call “freedom birds.” While connected to a specific immigrant experience, this collection illuminates the development, transmission, evolution, and maintenance of an often overlooked traditional art form.
Oral History Collection
MOCA conducted approximately 350 interviews that make up its 7 oral history collections: 1. Archeology of Change: Mapping Tales of Gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown; 2. The Chino-Latino Project; 3. Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance; 4. Many Voices, One Humanity; 5. 8th Avenue - Sunset Park Oral History Collection; 6. 9/11 Chinatown Documentation Project; 7. Miscellaneous Oral History Collection. These interviews were conducted between 1980 and 2013, documenting memories and narratives related to the Chinese American experience. These interviews were digitized and transcribed from various formats but primarily from cassette tapes found and stored on-site at MOCA’s Collections & Research Center.
Marcella Dear Collection
Donated in 2006 by a longtime museum supporter and New York Chinatown resident, the Marcella Chin Dear collection includes dozens of textiles, hundreds of imported books, numerous boxes of old records, posters, game sets, instruments, family photographs and letters, store signs, ceramics, pieces of furniture, and tools from the family’s home and businesses. This collection is particularly rich as the Chin family remained in New York Chinatown for five generations straight. Marcella’s grandfather first arrived in New York in the late 1800s, settling in Chinatown and working as a laundryman. Before resettling in Hong Kong, he sent over his 19-year old son, Chin Suey Bing (who would become Marcella’s father). Living most of his adult life apart from his immediate family, Suey Bing relied on the support of the Chin Family Association and other business networks. He would later establish himself as a community leader and successful local businessman. His enterprises, located mostly along Mott Street, included an import-export company, a general store, a hardware store, a liquor store and the famed Rice Bowl restaurant.
Graciously donated by Pamela Chen, MOCA’s first qipao/cheongsam collection includes 77 Chinese dresses that were custom-tailored in the 1930s and 1940s and once owned by her mother, Phoebe Shou-Heng Chen (1917-1993). Donated by Angela King and her sister Fern Tse, MOCA’s second qipao/cheongsam collection includes 367 family dresses. Angela King’s mother was a fashion designer, and whatever she wore, she had something to do with the design, usually ordering specific requirements from China. MOCA donated 262 pieces from this collection to the New York Chinese Cultural Center in 2012. The third qipao/cheongsam collection was donated by Anna Pai, and includes 10 pieces that once belonged to her mother, who is the sister of the Young Marshal Chang Hsueh Liang. Chang Hsueh Liang instigated the Xian Affair in 1936 to coerce Chiang Kai Shek to fight with the Chinese Communists against the Japanese. These exquisite dresses express Chinese design and fashion sensibilities. In conjunction with MOCA’s upcoming exhibitions, Front Row: Chinese American Designers & Shanghai Glamour: New Women 1910s-40s, these dresses are great resources for exploring Chinese traditions, heritage and design, and answering related questions: How does fashion help communities preserve family traditions, identity, and culture? How have Chinese American designers expressed their own cultural positioning/identities through their work? What is the relationship between fashion trends and East-West politics?
Hazel Ying Lee Collection
Hazel Ying Lee was born in 1912 in Portland, Oregon, to parents originally from Shanghai, China. Despite facing obstacles and discrimination for being female and Chinese American, Hazel pursued, trained, and achieved her dream of becoming a pilot. In 1943, she became the “first Chinese American woman to fly for the U.S. military” as part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program. The WASP program was started by the U.S. military to draft female pilots and remedy the shortage of male pilots. Hazel Ying Lee was among a group of over one thousand women involved with the program and was also its first Asian American member. A month before the termination of the program in 1944 and towards the end of the war, Hazel Ying Lee’s life came to an abrupt end when her plane collided with another plane in Montana while in flight. She died at the age of 33. Comprised of primary artifacts including original personal photographs, family letters, documents, newspaper articles, and memorabilia, Hazel Ying Lee’s remarkable but relatively anonymous life story as a pioneer Chinese American woman aviator during the 1930s and 1940s is brought to the fore through this collection, donated by Hazel’s sister, Frances M. Tong, and filmmaker Alan H. Rosenberg. Her story is also featured at the Texas Woman’s University Library as well as in the documentary film, A Brief Flight: Hazel Ying Lee and the Women Who Flew Pursuit by Alan H. Rosenberg and Montgomery Hom. For more information about Hazel Ying Lee, please visit www.hazelyinglee.com.
The Chinese Musical and Theatrical Association (CMTA) collection is composed of approximately 26 intricate opera costumes, 24 rare musical instruments, 20 pairs of shoes, 20 hats, 41 fabric samples, 6 shawls, 21 stage props, and numerous related documents. These items bring to life the Cantonese opera clubs that flourished in North America’s Chinatowns from the 1930s to the present. They serve as portals into the cultural and social legacy of a 130+ year-old aural and visual operatic tradition of the Chinese diaspora. Currently underutilized, these items also reveal how Chinese immigrants adapted this traditional form to their modern settings (e.g., adoption of western instruments in the 1930s), as well as how opera clubs became a cultural focal point in the lives of immigrants.
To explore the MOCA Collection in more detail, please visit our Online Collections section.