The Museum of Chinese in America’s 85,000-item collection rescued from a five-alarm fire in January will come home after months of restoration and stabilization, museum officials said Friday.
The homecoming also allows the museum on Mott Street to mark its 40th anniversary in a year when the Chinatown community has been rocked by the pandemic, rising anti-Asian sentiment, and financial crisis of the city and one of its most iconic neighborhoods, museum officials said.
MOCA’s archives were kept at a historic building at 70 Mulberry Street, which also housed several non-profit organizations. The archives of 85,000 historical and cultural items documenting the Chinese diaspora in America were stored on the second floor of the five-story building, where a fire on January 23rd destroyed the top floors and roof.
The museum itself on Centre Street remains closed, but its windows will host a new exhibit, “Windows for Chinatown,” this month and a temporary workshop on Howard Street will host the collections. Historical artifacts range from ticket stubs from turn-of-the-century local theaters to menus documenting the historical changes in Chinatown’s restaurants.
“MOCA has had a long journey to this day. The outpouring of support after the fire at 70 Mulberry Street remains the stabilizer and catalyst for MOCA to continue. In the past nine months, MOCA has not missed a beat. In addition to extracting more than 85,000 items out of the fire-torn building, the team has worked ceaselessly to create a plan for full recovery,” said Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America, in a press release Friday.
After the museum’s collection space was destroyed, the artifacts will now be kept at 3 Howard Street one block away from MOCA.
“We hope that the MOCA Workshop will serve as a light during these times—one that shines brightly as MOCA continues to tell the untold stories in the making of America. We are heartened and grateful for the acts of courage amidst a rampant escalation of anti-Asian/Asian American racism,” Maasbach said.
The Mulberry Street building will receive $80 million in capital funding for its restoration, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in July.