Learn About the History of Chinese Americans at the New-York Historical Society

Learn About the History of Chinese Americans at the New-York Historical Society

Now through April 2015, the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library presents Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion, an exhibit about the history of Chinese trade and immigration. This is the latest part of a series of exhibits on the theme of becoming an American.

According to the exhibit’s curator, the name Exclusion/Inclusion represents the dueling attitudes toward Chinese immigrants. First, the exhibit explores how they were excluded by the US’s Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. Then it shows how, when they finally were allowed to immigrate, Chinese American “made a place for themselves” in America.

Beginning with objects acquired through trade with China in the late 18th century, the exhibit includes many historical pieces, including the Moo Lung ceremonial dragon, one of the oldest Chinese American artifacts. The center of the exhibit recreates an immigration station, complete with men’s and women’s barracks, a hospital and a partially interactive filing cabinet where visitors can view immigration documents.

As you reach the end of the exhibit, it focuses on more recent history. One of my favorite parts was an extra large graphic novel lining the walls, which tells the story of the Chin family, from the perspective of 1960’s-born Amy Chin. She talks about her family’s experiences with immigration and assimilating into American culture, from her grandparents’ generation through present day.

Upcoming exhibits at the Historical Society include Annie Lebowitz: Pigrimage and Holiday Express: Toys and Trains from the Jerni Collection, both of which begin on November 21st. For more information, visit nyhistory.org.

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