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Museum of Chinese in America archives likely destroyed in fire

fire moca photo by alex smith

Firefighters gather on Bayard Street in Lower Manhattan on January 24, around the corner from 70 Mulberry Street, where the archives of the Museum of Chinese in America are located. Photo by Alex Smith

Some tragic news from a museum in Chinatown, Manhattan, dedicated to documenting the experience of Chinese Americans, per the New York Times:

The 85,000 items, some dating to the 19th century, told the rich story of the Chinese migration to the United States: textiles, restaurant menus, handwritten letters, tickets for ship’s passage.

All of them could now be destroyed.

Officials at the Museum of Chinese in America said Friday evening that thousands of historic and artistic items it had carefully collected and curated over decades were most likely lost after a fire tore through a Chinatown building where most of its acquisitions were stored.

“One hundred percent of the museum’s collection, other than what is on view,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, the president of the museum. She said that the collection was one of a kind and that she was “just distraught” after receiving the news.

The fire broke out Thursday night at 70 Mulberry Street, in a former school that educated generations of immigrants before becoming a cherished cultural landmark in the neighborhood.

The museum has set up a charity page on GoFundMe for the work to attempt to recover artifacts from the fire.

—Alex Smith

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Alex Smith

Alex Smith is a writer and researcher from Aotearoa, New Zealand. She has a Master of Arts in East Asian Regional Studies from Columbia University. Prior to moving to New York, she worked as an analyst at the New Zealand Treasury, where she focused on justice sector policy and the annual budget.

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