Museum of Chinese in America’s Archive Severely Damaged by Fire

Last Friday a fire decimated a historic building at 70 Mulberry Street in New York’s Chinatown. The building was home to a number of community groups and housed the Museum of Chinese in America’s archive on the second floor. Museum staff report that many of the 85,000 artifacts stored in the building were probably lost in the fire.

Museum president Nancy Yao Maasbach said that the archive held “One hundred percent of the museum’s collection, other than what is on view.” Artifacts like textiles, restaurant menus, and tickets for ship’s passage were likely damaged beyond repair by the water used to extinguish the fire. About 35,000 of the objects in the archive had previously been digitized.

Although museum staff are still not allowed back inside the building, city workers began removing boxes of artifacts from the wreckage on Monday. The recovery effort is being overseen by the Department of Records and Department of Cultural Affairs, which are coordinating with other cultural institutions and archivists to assist with the recovery. City government has also offered to store the collection on city-owned property until recovery is finished.

Removing the collection from the building is just the beginning of the effort. “The hard work really starts when we get the materials,” Maasbach said. “A lot of things are time sensitive…and we’re closing in on the window to preserve them.”

The Museum of Chinese in America launched a gofundme campaign to help pay for the cost of recovery. In three days, the campaign has raised over $80,000.