The Museum of Chinese in America: Preserving Precious Narratives.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Nancy Yao Maasbach, President of the Museum of Chinese in America.  As a nationally-recognized museum, MOCA successfully and creatively identifies and preserves the untold stories of the making of America, specifically the journeys of Chinese immigrants.

During the day,  I work for a company that provides customer relationship management software to non-profit performing arts and cultural institutions.  Nancy recently spoke to an audience of 1,900 arts and culture professionals at my company’s annual user conference about how using our software helped MOCA identify and engage with their members.  Nerdy data-talk aside, the part of her talk that resonated with me was the story of the museum’s origin and its commitment to preserving the ‘precious narratives’ of the Chinese communities in America.

In her moving and often humorous talk. “Michael Wong, Have You Eaten Yet?”, Nancy introduces us to seven individuals, who in 1980 saw the inherent value in everyday items that were being discarded in dumpsters across Chinatown.

Over the last 37 years, the community has donated thousands of artifacts, often times anonymously, in packages and in suitcases left outside of the museum doors. Today, MOCA has 65,000 items which preserve and give identity to the stories of Chinese immigration in America.

They have an incredibly extensive online collection.  Click the ‘random images’ button and be prepared to lose several hours browsing through the artifacts.

I can’t wait until I visit New York again – MOCA just got moved to the top of my list!

Never Leave a Good Friend Behind

The man from the suitcase was buried three times.  First in 1995 at Woodlawn Cemetery, surrounded by his loving wife, Juanita, his extended family, and his remaining friends and colleagues.  It’s a beautiful spot; I’ve shed my own tears there.

I don’t know who presided over his next burial, who selected the much smaller coffin he occupied for a  year after Juanita was put to rest by his side, but I presided over his first exhumation. Continue reading