Chinatown museum to reopen after massive fire gutted building in 2020

CHINATOWN, New York (WABC) -- A museum in Chinatown is finally reopening after it was gutted during a massive fire more than a year ago.

After more than a year of shuttered operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the five-alarm fire at its Collections space, the Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street will reopen on Thursday, July 15.

The museum's reopening and its new exhibition will allow MOCA to serve as a much-needed space for discussion of issues around the historical roots of anti-Asian/Asian American Pacific Islander racism from the earliest days of Asians coming to America in the 1800s to today.

The historic space was destroyed by a massive fire back in January of 2020, just days before the celebration of the Lunar New Year and a couple months before the COVID pandemic hit New York City.
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Officials did what they could recovering artifacts that could be saved and are officially reopening with a new original exhibition called "Responses: Asian American Voices Resisting the Tides of Racism."

Museum President Nancy Yao Massbach says four floors of the five-story building were ruined -- but the second floor containing historical treasures survived.

The exhibit is the result of the MOCA's year-long "OneWorld COVID-19 Special Collection" initiative that welcomed submissions of creative, artistic and public responses to the events of 2020 and 2021.

It will also feature art, essays, videos and music donated by people from across the U.S. and the Asian diaspora.

The exhibition will offer an immersive experience and space for reflection, empowerment, and action by inviting museum guests to leave their own responses as new platforms for understanding and education surface.

MOCA is able to reopen the museum and present this exhibit with free admission for all.

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The exhibits are uniquely American and tell the story of Asians in the US for the last 200 years. And outside its door, Asian Americans young and old exercised their constitutional right to protest.

The reopening is not without controversy, and the demonstrators are calling for a boycott.

They claim the museum promotes displacement and racism, and they take issue with museum board member Jonathan Chu, who is the biggest landlord in Chinatown.

Protesters say Chu's family closed a community space, forced more than 100 people out of work, and supported the construction of a jail in Chinatown.

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