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IN THE WAKE OF THE DEVASTATING FIRE IN CHINATOWN MUSEUM, SCHUMER URGES NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES TO AWARD AN EMERGENCY GRANT TO THE MUSEUM OF CHINESE IN AMERICA; EMERGENCY FUNDS WILL AID MUSEUM IN RECOVERY EFFORTS AFTER FIRE DAMAGED UP TO 85,000 ARTIFACTS

02.27.20

Fire-Damaged Community Center Housed Collections And Research Materials From The Museum Of Chinese In America; Approx. 2/3 Of MOCA’s Archives Remain Unrecovered And Costs To Recover, Repair, And Rebuild The Collection Keeps Growing   

“Chairman’s Emergency Grant” Can Be Used To Clean, Pack And Recover Humanities Collections, Transfer Artifacts To Temporary Storage, And Consult With Conservators And Preservation Professionals

Schumer To NEH: Prioritize MOCA’s Application For Emergency Funds And Work To Enhance Museum’s Resiliency

In the aftermath of a devastating fire at a Chinatown community center, which houses collections and research materials from the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer today urged the National Endowment for the Humanities to award a Chairman’s Emergency Grant to the museum. A Chairman’s Emergency Grant is a discretionary award of up to $30,000 to preserve documents, books, photographs, art works, historical objects, sculptures, and structures damaged in an emergency, such as the fire at 70 Mulberry Street in Manhattan.

On January 23rd, a large fire broke out at 70 Mulberry Street, a community center in Manhattan’s Chinatown, which houses 85,000 pieces of historical materials from MOCA, such as family photo albums, menus from Chinatown’s restaurants, books and magazines, musical instruments, signage from one of the oldest pharmacies in New York City, and a variety of other artifacts. Less than half of the archives were digitized and most of them have been damaged by water, soot, and mold. The Museum of Chinese in America’s efforts to recover and repair the collection is ongoing. A NEH Chairman’s Emergency Grant would provide vital funds for MOCA to consult with conservation and preservation professionals, and to help dry, clean, pack, and transfer artifacts, Schumer explained.

“The contributions of Chinese-American immigrants to New York and the nation are inestimable and the Museum of Chinese in America is a precious repository of that history. MOCA has preserved the rich legacy of these contributions through its number of invaluable artifacts, but after the devastating fire in Chinatown last month, the collection is now in jeopardy. That’s why I’m urging the National Endowment for the Humanities to assist in the recovery efforts of this collection by awarding emergency funds to MOCA and to work with the museum to help prevent another emergency,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.

“The Museum of Chinese in America is a vital institution dedicated to advancing the historical and contemporary narratives of Asian Americans, and shedding light on the entire American experience. It is essential that we do everything we can to preserve the invaluable materials in its collections. I applaud and fully support Senator Schumer’s efforts to get this emergency funding to MOCA as soon as possible,” said Senator Brian Kavanagh.

“The MOCA archives and artifacts located in 70 Mulberry are the culmination of the tireless work of local activists to gather stories, precious ancestral possessions, and photography to not only illuminate Asian American history—but tell the story of Chinatown. I thank Senator Schumer for his strong support of MOCA and the Chinatown community and his commitment to preserving and restoring this priceless collection. With the fate of so many historic items hanging in the balance, funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities would play a critical role in MOCA’s continued efforts to tell the untold stories of the Asian American experience,” said Council Member Margaret Chin.

“The MOCA offices damaged in the devastating 70 Mulberry fire held archives full of stories, art, and commemorations of Chinese Americans in our city,” said Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “Recovering these priceless archives is incredibly important in maintaining the documentation of the stories of Chinatown. Funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities would provide much needed support in the long and tedious process of saving this incredibly important archive. Thank you to Senator Chuck Schumer for showing support to our community in Chinatown and helping us to fight to save this significant piece of our history.”

Founded in 1980 as the Chinatown History Project, MOCA has evolved to become an international resource for scholarly research, cross-cultural understanding, and general education about the history of Chinese in America. The museum’s collection includes more than 85,000 artifacts, which are accessed daily by academics, documentarians, journalists, students, and the general public.

Schumer’s letter to the National Endowment for the Humanities can be found below:

Jon Parrish Reede, Chairman

National Endowment for the Humanities

400 7th Street, SW

Washington, DC 20506

Dear Chairman Peede,

I write to request that you provide your personal attention to the application by the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) for a Chairman’s Emergency Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Last month, MOCA was devastated by a fire in its museum storage building at 70 Mulberry Street in Manhattan. Curatorial staff from MOCA are still assessing the full extent of the damage to the museum’s archives, but there is every reason to believe that a significant portion of it has been significantly damaged, at best, and permanently lost, at worst.

Founded in 1980 as the Chinatown History Project, MOCA has evolved to become an international resource for scholarly research, cross-cultural understanding, and general education about the history of Chinese in America. The museum’s collection includes more than 85,000 artifacts, which are accessed daily by academics, documentarians, journalists, students, and the general public.

As you know, a Chairman’s Emergency Grant may be used by museums for “activities such as drying, cleaning, and packing humanities collections, transferring artifacts to temporary storage, or consulting with conservators and preservation professionals,” all of which are appropriate and necessary for MOCA to undertake in the wake of the fire.

Given the rich legacy of contributions by Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans to our nation, I ask that you prioritize MOCA’s application for emergency funding that will help recover and restore this unparalleled historic archive. Over the longer term, I hope that you and your staff can also continue to work with MOCA to develop a joint strategy to enhance MOCA’s resiliency through the full digitization of its archives, fireproofing its facilities, and other similar efforts.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator 

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