Museum of Chinese in America – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura
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Museum of Chinese in America

This small New York museum examines Chinese history from its origins right up to its arrival in the city. 


The Museum of Chinese in America is nestled—almost tucked away completely—in the heart of Chinatown.

Its neutral wood and green tones symbolically tackle Chinese stereotypes and offers visitors a safe and tranquil place to learn about Chinese history, not judge. Founded by Charles Lai and Jack Tchen, and beautifully designed by Maya Lin, MOCA is just one floor of exhibition space, but it’s packed with history. And not just Chinese history–the Museum is also dedicated to preserving the more recent Chinese American legacy.

The core exhibition, With a Single Step, is a timeline that starts as early as 1400 and ends in an invitation to the present. The highlights of the core exhibition include the realistic recreation of an old Chinese general store, a mock television set that is motion-activated (and comes with a comfy arm chair), and “core portraits,” which are personal narratives of the Chinese immigrant and Chinese American experience. But best of all, the core is highly interactive, with pull-out maps and a dragon head you can deposit a wish into, making it kid-friendly while maintaining a sophisticated and unbiased approach to preserving Chinese history.

There are two additional exhibition spaces on either side of the core exhibition; these rotate seasonally and in the past, have featured contemporary photography, fashion, Asian American comic book art, and more.

Know Before You Go

Take the train (N, R, Q, J, Z, or 6) to Canal Street. Head northeast toward Howard Street. The Museum is located on the middle of Centre Street, between Howard Street and Grand Street.

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