Chinatown’s Museum of Chinese in America looks to amplify long overlooked history with new expansion

NEW YORK — The Museum of Chinese in America is about to undergo a major transformation, rebuilding its facility to better document and often neglected part of American history.

Museums often dwell on the past, but in Chinatown, the Museum of Chinese in America looks to shape the future.

A massive expansion is in the works to fight cultural ignorance by amplifying a long overlooked history.

“We often ask our young people who come through the door, ‘Are you able to name an American hero of Asian ancestry?’ The answer is almost always no,” said Nancy Yao, president of the Museum of Chinese in America.

Yao tells CBS2’s Christina Fan a new state-of-the-art headquarters scheduled to open in 2025 hopes to educate 300,000 visitors a year. It will include a theater, genealogy center and exhibition space housing centuries of history.

One person featured is a Chinese corporal who served in the Civil War.

“His last name was Pierce because he was adopted. You would never know that, and just a lot of people who were pioneers that you don’t learn about in your history textbooks, which I thought was really interesting and kind of like, you feel proud in that moment,” visitor Annie Gao said.

The unveiling comes at a critical time when anti-Asian hate crimes rose to more than 10,000 incidents nationwide since March 2020.

“The genesis of that discrimination is really based in the exclusion and discrimination of Chinese in this country over 200 years ago,” Yao said.

The new facility will expand the museum’s footprint from 12,000 square feet to more than 68,000 square feet. It was designed by Maya Lin and Ralph Appelbaum Associates, drawing on inspiration from Chinese landscape scroll paintings and an ancient mathematical puzzle.

“The different bronze or metal pieces that are on the exterior kind of allude to that tangram puzzle,” Yao said.

A puzzle symbolic of the journey of so many Chinese American immigrants trying to find their place in America, finally being told and learned on a broader scale.

Construction of the new building will begin later this year and is expected to end in 2025. During that period, the museum will take its exhibitions on the road.

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