This Chinatown Museum Survived a Devastating Fire and the Pandemic — and It's Finally Open in NYC

·2 min read

The long-awaited reopening of the Museum of Chinese in America finally took place in New York City's Chinatown after more than a year of delays. The museum, which is dedicated to Chinese American history, now hosts a new exhibit focused on Asian Americans and the racism they have encountered for generations.

Exterior view of Museum of Chinese in America
Exterior view of Museum of Chinese in America

Courtesy of Museum of Chinese in America

Between the pandemic and a January 2020 fire that damaged some of its collection, the Museum of Chinese in America had to overcome several obstacles ahead of its reopening this month.

Looking back, there was a question of "how were we going to survive, but we kept pivoting," said Nancy Yao Maasbach, the museum's president, to a local news reporter.

Exhibition at Museum of Chinese in America
Exhibition at Museum of Chinese in America

Maya Lin Studio/ Museum of Chinese in America

Like many institutions of history, art, and culture, the museum turned to virtual programming to keep moving forward amid the pandemic. That programming included a call for submissions from the public that would later become a part of a new exhibit titled, "Responses: Asian American Voices Resisting the Tides of Racism."

The exhibit features a timeline detailing the racism that Asians and Asian Americans have experienced throughout generations in the U.S., and how that bigotry has evolved to take on many different forms.

From the poor treatment of the earliest Asian immigrant communities to the racist abuse suffered by Middle Eastern and South Asian communities after the Sept. 11 attacks, all this and more is on display in the exhibit.

Also on display is the most recent surge of anti-Asian hatred sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a timeline showcasing the deadly attacks on Asians (including the mass shooting at a Georgia spa) and the use of anti-Asian slurs by politicians.

General Store interior at Museum of Chinese in America
General Store interior at Museum of Chinese in America

Maya Lin Studio/ Museum of Chinese in America

"We felt like even though the submissions since April 2020 were really wonderful … it wouldn't have been enough," said Herb Tam, curator and director of exhibits at the museum. They wanted the exhibition to "make people aware of how this is not new, the way that Asians have been made to feel foreign, or the way we have been scapegoated for a disease."

The exhibit, however, also includes messages of hope and resilience, with items showcasing how Asian Americans have pushed back against the biases and bigotry they've faced.

For more information on how to visit the Museum of Chinese in America, head to the museum's official website.

Jessica Poitevien is a Travel + Leisure contributor currently based in South Florida, but always on the lookout for the next adventure. Besides traveling, she loves baking, talking to strangers, and taking long walks on the beach. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting