New Acquisition Policy

Definition and Purpose

The collection is defined as all the material of cultural or historical significance which has been accessioned by The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), and includes (but is not exclusively) artifacts such as furniture, works of art, photos in various formats (including films, slides, and digital images); archives such as documents, manuscripts, oral histories, audio/videotapes, personal papers, maps, and music collections; and a library, including books, periodicals, pamphlets, and recordings that are systematically arranged.

Acquisition is defined as the transfer of ownership of a significant item to the permanent collection of the Museum, its management and documentation. Material is acquired to enhance the ability of the Museum to carry out its mission of reclaiming, preserving, and interpreting the history and culture of Chinese and their descendants in the United States.

The collection is shaped by MOCA's Acquisition Policy, and totals over 65,000 items. MOCA collection items often inform Museum exhibitions, educational programs, and research projects.

Objectives of Collection Development

  • To build a collection that will foster a better understanding of the experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.
  • To collect primary and secondary resources that will meet the research needs of the Museum’s curator(s) and educational programmer(s).
  • To collect and provide access to primary and secondary source materials, both on and offline, that will meet the needs of those conducting research on people of Chinese descent in the United States.  

Acquisition Methods

We use seven methods to acquire materials: Gift, Purchase, Copies, Exchange, Bequests, Salvage, and Internal Transfer.

Gifts: These are a major source of material for the Museum’s Collection. Gifts will be accepted only if they offer a genuine benefit and there is no ambiguity of ownership and intention.

Purchase: The collection is augmented by very selective purchase, which is only decided by the Board of Trustees and responsible officers. For items of major importance it is usually necessary to seek additional financial support for external funding bodies.

Copies: For certain material, copies of originals, including digital files, are acceptable for acquisition.

Exchanges: The Museum undertakes exchanges with other parties where there is a clear public benefit, enhancement of its collection and mutual gain to all parties. The museum does not carry out exchanges with private individuals unless the benefit can be obtained in no other way.

Bequests: Material offered as a bequest will be evaluated against the standard acquisition criteria and items that do not meet these standards will not be accepted for the Collection.

Salvage: In certain circumstances, abandonment can determine eligibility for MOCA collections.


Internal transfer: MOCA institutional documents are an important part of Asian American history, including photographs of public and educational programs; documents, audio and video recordings produced by MOCA exhibitions and projects; and records of the Annual Legacy Dinner.

Acquisition Criteria

All potential new acquisition material will be evaluated in terms of its historical significance to the MOCA mission, relationship to other material in the collection, and the resource implications, including preservation and storage, before a decision can be made. Collecting must comply with priorities defined by the Museum, and meet appropriate acquisitions criteria.


The Museum will only accept items if the following criteria are met:

  • The artifact is relevant to the Museum’s Mission Statement;
  • The artifact has a free and clear title;
  • The object must have intrinsic value;
  • The object must have a verifiable record of authenticity and provenance;
  • The Museum can provide adequate storage;
  • The Museum has the financial resources to preserve/conserve the artifact. No object should be considered for acquisition if its physical condition exceeds the Museum’s financial ability to provide for its care, security, and preservation.
  • The Museum will not collect media that requires playback and/or obsolete equipment not owned by or accessible to the Museum;
  • No item will be taken on the condition that it will be exhibited either immediately or forever. Some historical material may be accepted and maintained strictly for research or educational programming.

Criteria for Acquisitions of Certain Formats:
Documents, manuscript and digital

  • Unless valuable content is needed for research and when the original object is extant, photocopies will not be accepted.
  • An isolated document with no additional context will not be accepted.
  • Digital surrogates will be accepted but scanning must be done by trained MOCA staff in-house.
  • For acceptance of digital objects in place of the original, Donor must also sign deed of gift assigning legal title and property rights to the electronic format donated.


Electronic submissions

  • A waiver must be signed giving MOCA rights to use material in exhibition and programming.

Photographs, print and digital

  • Isolated photographs in which neither the event nor person(s) depicted are known will not be accepted.
  • General family photographs without historical context provided by the donor will not be accepted.
  • Only digital scans (done by MOCA) or an original photograph will be accepted. Print reproductions of photographs will only be accepted if the original is not extant.
  • Digital scans will be accepted but scanning must be done by trained MOCA staff in-house.
  • For acceptance of digital objects in place of the original, Donor must also sign deed of gift assigning legal title and property rights to the electronic format donated.

Before donation, the museum will require the following information on the artifact:

  • A photograph of the artifact
  • All available information on the history of the artifact
  • Potential donor’s name, address, email, and phone number

Please contact us:
Museum of Chinese in America
Collections and Research Center
70 Mulberry St., 2nd Fl.
New York, NY 10013
Phone: (855) 955-MOCA
Fax: (212) 619-4216


The Museum does not provide any appraisal services or consultation. For new acquisitions, the museum will provide a tax exempt form if it is requested, but it is the donor’s responsibility to find out the value of the donation. We have, however, compiled the following information which we trust will be helpful. While the organizations named below may not provide appraisals, they could provide a listing of people who can provide appraisals.


Download A List of Appraisers.