by Serri Gebert Fuller
The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), located in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown, is the leading museum dedicated to reclaiming, preserving and presenting the history and culture of Chinese people in the United States. Through its thought-provoking exhibits and programs, MOCA encourages dialogue among people of all cultural backgrounds.
In December 2008, the museum will move into a new site that is being designed by renowned artist/designer Maya Lin. The new building at 211 Centre Street will increase the museum’s total size six-fold and enable it to serve as a national center, presenting the Chinese American experience as an integral part of the American story. It will honor the memories, struggles, contributions and legacies of Chinese Americans, helping to bridge the old and the new, the past and the present.
When the building opens, the museum will include a new permanent exhibition chronicling the history of the Chinese American experience. MOCA staff members were excited to learn about collections documenting the Chinese American experience at the Minnesota Historical Society. After reviewing over 130 images online, the MOCA narrowed down their selection to fourteen photographs, one poster and one manuscript. Minnesota families that will be featured in the new exhibition include:
Woo Yee Sing: Early Minneapolis entrepreneur, believed to have established the first Chinese restaurant in Minnesota. Mr. Woo was also featured in the History Theatre’s 2007 production of 100 Men’s Wife.
Feng and Jennie Hsiao: Feng Hsiao, CEO of Shaw-Lundquist Associates, Inc., and his wife Jennie, are long time supporters and leaders in the Twin Cities Chinese American community. Shaw-Lundquist is the largest minority-owned contracting business in the Midwest and is the largest Asian-owned contracting business in the nation.
Wing Young Huie: Wing Young Huie is an award-winning photographer who has received international attention for his many projects that document the changing cultural landscape of his home state Minnesota.
Jock Jyao Huie family: Members of the Huie (Syeh Tune) family immigrated to Minnesota in 1928. Their oldest son remained in China. For reasons unknown, he later came to the United States as a ‘paper son’, even though he was a ‘real son’. His real identity was revealed in the 1950s via the Confession Program. Members of the Huie family have been long-time residents of the Twin Cities.
Sheila Chin Morris: Sheila describes herself a Chinese-American woman who grew up “half and half”—literally picturing herself walking atop a fence experiencing her Chinese ancestry on one side, and her German-English-Scotch-Dutch-Swiss on the other side. Sheila grew up in St. Paul and currently resides in Waseca where she is the Co-Director of Development and Exhibits at the County Historical Society.
The experiences of these and other families will help tell the stories of the Chinese Exclusion Act, paper sons, immigration, Chinese social and political organizations, the impact of World War II on the Chinese American community and much more. Most importantly, the contributions of Chinese American Minnesotans will have a national presence at the Museum of Chinese in America. The MOCA’s exhibition will also include a media “portraits” of people who highlight key experiences in Chinese American history. According to Doreen Wang, MOCA Exhibition Associate, Chinese American authors such as David Henry Hwang wrote monologues for the core portraits, in most cases, based the words of the individuals featured. Sheila Chin Morris will be featured as one of the core portraits. Images documenting the Chinese American experience in Minnesota can be found at the Minnesota Historical Society’s Web site: http://collections.mnhs.org/visualresources by entering “Chinese” in the keyword search. All of the online photographs have been donated by Chinese American families or close friends of the Chinese American community. Anyone who would like to learn more about donating personal belongings that document the history of their family or business may contact the Society’s Collection Department at 651-259-3252. For more information about the Museum of Chinese in America see their Web site at www.mocanyc.org or call 212- 619-4785. Sherri Gebert Fuller is the Corporate/Foundation Gifts Officer of the Minnesota Historical Society. She is the author of Chinese in Minnesota, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2004, and conducted the interview with Sheila Chin Morris as part of the research for this book.