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Ground One:

Voices from Post-911 Chinatown


The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA)
The September 11 Digital Archive
The Oral History Research Office
Asian/Pacific Americans in the Americas Studies Program & Institute

The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) is the first full-time, professionally staffed museum dedicated to reclaiming, preserving, and interpreting the history and culture of Chinese and their descendants in the Western Hemisphere.

Hailed by the Smithsonian Magazine as "a cultural rescue mission to save a little-known immigrant heritage," MoCA documents an immigrant community that arrived in the Americas with few possessions but very big dreams. After more than 20 years of collecting artifacts, archival and library materials, we are proud to be stewards of one of the most important national archives of materials about Chinese life in America. From rare papers to priceless artifacts, we hold many unusual and unique items indispensable for understanding this contemporary history.

The Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) began as a community-based organization founded in 1980 by Jack Tchen and Charlie Lai and Chinese American artists, historians and students who felt that the memories of first-generation "old-timers" would be lost without oral history, photo documentation, research, and collecting efforts. Now a focal point of the community's cultural life, the Museum has evolved into not only the keeper of the community's documented history, but the community's cultural history as well.

MoCA is located downtown in the heart of Manhattan's Chinatown on the second floor of the historic, century-old school building that was once Public School 23. Opened in November 1, 1893, and closing almost exactly 83 years later in October 1976, Public School 23 was built during the great tides of reform activity of the late 19th century, as New York struggled to educate the new waves of immigrants entering the city. Now as Chinatown begins to recover from the events of September 11th, MoCA envisions itself to be the cultural and historical cornerstone, curator, educator, exhibitor and research center of not only Manhattan's Chinatown, but for all Chinese of many nationalities located in the Americas.

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The September 11 Digital Archive uses electronic media to collect, preserve, and present the history of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania and the public responses to them. Organized by the American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, the Digital Archive will contribute to the on-going effort by historians and archivists to record and preserve the record of 9/11 by: collecting first-hand accounts of the 9/11 attacks and the aftermath (especially voices currently under-represented on the web), collecting and archiving emails and digital images growing out of these events, organizing and annotating the most important web-based resources on the subject, and developing materials to contextualize and teach about the events. The Digital Archive will also use these events as a way of assessing how history is being recorded and preserved in the twenty-first century and as an opportunity to develop free software tools to help historians to do a better job of collecting, preserving, and writing history in the new century. Our goal is to create a permanent record of the events of September 11, 2001. In the process, we hope to foster some positive legacies of those terrible events by allowing people to tell their stories, making those stories available to a wide audience, providing historical context for understanding those events and their consequences, and helping historians and archivists improve their practices based on the lessons we learn from this project. The September 11 Digital Archive project formally ended in June, 2004, and although we continue to collect accounts submitted through the website, we are no longer updating the website.

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The Oral History Research Office, founded in 1948 by the Pulitzer Prize winning historian Allan Nevins, is one of the oldest and largest university-based public oral history archives and programs in the world. The collection now contains nearly 8,000 interviews and over 17,000 hours of tape-recorded conversation. The Office is also a center for oral history education, through courses in the university as well as its annual Summer Institute in Oral History which attracts scholars and fellows from around the world. Over 2,500 researchers and writers consult the collection each year, and over 1,500 books have been written extensively using the oral history sources.

After the events of September 11, 2001, the Oral History Research Office undertook several large projects documenting the catastrophic events and their aftermath. These projects include a large longitudinal project co-founded by Mary Marshall Clark, Director, and Dr. Peter Bearman, a sociologist, called “The September 11, 2001 Oral History Narrative and Memory Project.” Through this project, over 600 eye-witnesses and others were interviewed in the year following the catastrophe, and over 200 were re-interviewed over the next two years. Additionally, the Office undertook “The September 11, 2001 Response and Recovery Project” to document the experiences of professionals who responded to the crises. Most recently, the Oral History Research Office has founded a public history program called "The Telling Lives Oral History Project.” This program is designed to aid youth, families and communities directly affected by historic legacy of 9/11, or other experiences of historical trauma, in a wide variety of communities.

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Asian/Pacific Americans in the Americas Studies Program & Institute
New York University Founded in 1996 in response to student interest, the A/P/A Studies Program provides an interdisciplinary approach towards understanding the history and contemporary experiences of Asian/Pacific Americans in the Americas. The two main areas of concentration for the Program are urban studies and diaspora studies. Urban studies examines the formation of A/P/A communities in relation to the various cultural, social, and political institutions in urban settings, with special emphasis on the New York metropolitan area

The A/P/A Studies Program and Institute offers interdisciplinary courses, public events, and symposiums that focus on the experience of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders through the exploration of literature, history, film criticism, art history, urban studies, and gender studies. With a special emphasis on the New York metropolitan area, the A/P/A Studies Program encourages community-focused learning within larger theoretical and global diasporic frameworks. The A/P/A Studies Institute offers a space that promotes community-building and awareness with regular public programming that fosters social reflection and intellectual engagement.

Documentation of the history and experiences of Asian in the Americas is also an important aspect of A/P/A Studies' mission. The Institute is currently purchasing the Yoshio Kishi/Irene Sun Collection of Asian Americana (over 10,000 items) to serve as the core of a public research archive and repository at NYU's Bobst Library. In addition, the Institute encourages and supports student projects to document and engage current and historical A/PA experiences. These projects along with similarly relevant periodicals, journals, scholarly and literary work are available at the A/P/A Studies Library and Gallery.

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