The museum is as crowded as the neighborhood. Maya Lin’s design lends elegance to its rooms which unfold one from the other, beginning with the early immigrant experience and its blatant racism and exclusion acts. On opposite walls you can read the achievements of individuals, like Ah Bing
who discovered how to hybridize the perfect cherry, and
Anna Mae Wong,
whose inroads into Hollywood were spoiled by her exploitation. You experience post WWII anti-Communist fifties by sitting on an old arm chair and watching a 1950s era tv show about the hounding of Chinese in Chinatowns (the authories assumed that they were Communists). Modern stars of contemporary culture include Steve Chen, the inventor of Youtube, Yo Yo Ma, and I.M. Pei.
One of my favorite discoveries was Dr. “Mom” Chung, the first Chinese American woman physician who served during the Second World War, and liked to dress as a man and dated among others Sophie Tucker.
I wish that I could process everything at once, but was overwhelmed by listening to overlapping audio and watching moving images from three different projectors. The print on the placards is tiny. I felt old and incapable of taking it in. Next time I will bring a magnifying glass.
At the end, in the Bloomberg Exhibit Hall was an ongoing loop of movies, called the Chinatown Film Project. I will have to go back and watch the ten short movies which progress in linear fashion, one at a time.
And the paintings by Yun-Fei Ji are marvelous. It is a pleasure to go into an open space and see paintings spread out at their ease.