The Museum of Chinese in America was founded in 1980 by John Kuo Wei Tchen and Charlie Lai (both formerly of Basement Workshop). The organization was originally called the New York Chinatown History Project but has seen several name changes through the years before settling on its current name in 2007.
In the late 1970s Manhattan’s Chinatown was undergoing a radical change as long term leases expired and Chinese laundries shuttered their doors. As residents left and stores closed all of their materials ended up in the garbage; valuable stories lost to time. Tchen and Lai saw the need to collect and preserve these stories, which is what led to the creation of the History Project. The History Project was located on East Broadway before moving to 70 Mulberry Street in 1984.
That same year we moved into our home at 70 Mulberry Street we put together our first exhibition Eight Pound Livelihood. The exhibition documented the lives of Chinese laundrymen in New York and was displayed at the New York Public Library on 42nd street. Ever since then MOCA has continued to put out shows that illuminate the Chinese American experience. In 2009 having outgrown the space at 70 Mulberry Street, we moved to 215 Centre Street, which was completely redesigned for us by renowned architect and artist Maya Lin.