Last Thursday, a fire at 70 Mulberry Street in New York City’s Chinatown likely destroyed 85,000+ objects that comprise the collection of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA). The main museum is at 215 Centre Street, but 70 Mulberry housed the museum’s painstakingly accumulated archives and collections.
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MOCA is deeply saddened and shocked by the devastating fire at Chinatown’s beloved 70 Mulberry. The MOCA team stayed on site until hoses stopped last night. We have reached out to emergency conservators. Thank you for the outpouring of community support re: MOCA archives. We will update as we get more information. #chinatown
The fire is out, but the building remains structurally unsound and what might be left of the archives is inaccessible and assuredly drenched in water. In addition to MOCA’s collection, the building housed a number of other community organizations, including the H.T. Chen Dance Company, Chinatown Manpower Project, Chinatown Senior Center, and United East Athletes Association.
For me personally, it’s the likely destruction of MOCA’s collection that has hit hardest. When MOCA began, it was the only repository of Chinese American history on the East Coast. Staff members and volunteers literally roamed the streets of Chinatown salvaging materials from dumpsters, closing storefronts, and elderly residents. It’s an irreplaceable collection that’s been built up over decades by and for the community. I and countless others have spent hours in their archives, looking at unique materials including treasured family objects, and working with their staff to research and uncover stories from our past.
I have no words but to ask, if you can, to consider donating to MOCA’s recovery fund either on Go Fund Me https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/mocafirerecovery or directly on their website https://www.mocanyc.org/
Update: This excellent article from Hua Hsu, “What We Lost in the Museum of Chinese in America Fire,” New Yorker which offers additional perspective on the value of the collection and some background on the turmoil MOCA as an institution has been mired in of late.