Two women standing by a table and looking carefully at a group photo on the table. Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Institutional Archives.

In 1988, MOCA staff invited students of the former P.S. 23, then home of the New York Chinatown History Project, to reunite at their old schoolhouse. Staff curator Dorothy Rony and staff historian Charlie Chin created an interactive exhibit, What Did You Learn in School Today? P.S. 23 1893-1976, inviting attendees to share stories and help identify pictures of their classmates. While only thirty former students initially RSVP’d, hundreds of middle aged and elderly alumni flocked to the reunion. The racial divide between generations of students – the eldest were Italian, the youngest all Chinese, and those in the middle a mix – reflected the flow of immigrant communities in the city influenced by the repeal of Chinese Exclusion laws and the migration of Italians out of the neighborhood. Their stories of conflict, such as fights between Italian and Chinese teen gangs over Columbus Park, or Chinese and Jewish people being beaten up in “Italian territory” along Mulberry and Canal Streets, shifted with the timing of the Civil Rights Movement. In 2003, MOCA held a second P.S. 23 Reunion, continuing its role as an organization actively engaged in its community and committed to gathering its memories.