"With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America" Exhibition

The Museum of Chinese in America

poster for "With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America" Exhibition
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Permanent event

With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America, MOCA’s new core exhibit, will bring to life the Museum’s unique historical content and birth a compelling art work by fusing itself with the architectural heart of its new home designed by Maya Lin on Centre Street. Metaphorically and literally, this “heart” will ground visitors, and be the focal point of the “new MOCA experience.” This presentation is an innovative approach to museum and exhibition design. It will facilitate a new way of interacting with content: through the evocative use of space that stirs visitors’ emotion and breaks down barriers to deeper learning and understanding.

The core exhibition presents the diverse layers of the Chinese American experience while examining America’s journey as a nation of immigrants—from an historical overview of Chinese immigration to the United States, to the individual stories that reveal what it has meant to be Chinese in America at different moments in time, to the physical traces and images left behind by past generations for us to consider, reflect and reclaim.

A key element of the exhibition is its dialogue with Maya Lin’s architectural centerpiece – a sky lit courtyard at the heart of the museum. The exhibit wraps around and engages with the courtyard, which represents the idea of China – a collective origin, which for many after the first generation, becomes a constructed, rather than an actual, memory. Not unlike the rooms of a Chinese house, each section of the exhibit is connected to the courtyard via portals. Each one containing films of people narrating personal life stories, demonstrating how history is propelled by individual moments of decision-making in the face of circumstances larger than themselves. External walls dialogue with the inner, in order to provide the larger historical context for Chinese American struggles and achievements.

Thematically and chronologically, the exhibit reveals the complex layers of the Chinese American experience through six modules:

1) Go East! Go West! examines how the flow and exchange of goods and people helped shape the formation of new identities, ideas, and perceptions of both Chinese and Americans during the 19th century.

2) America: Staking Claims explores the political climate in America leading up to the Chinese Exclusion Act, and its impact as the first federal law to restrict the immigration of a specific group based on nationality, defining in legal terms who could not “become American.”

3) Greetings from Chinatown shows how by the turn of the century, Chinatowns had sprung up in cities all across America forming an important economic and social network for Chinese Americans, as well as sites of cultural exchange in America’s urban centers.

4) Allies, Enemies? looks at how conflicts abroad dictated the fortunes of Chinese Americans at home. While World War II brought about the eventual repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, China’s Communist revolution fueled Red Scare targeting of Chinese in America.

5) Seeds of Change presents the great shifts in Chinese American communities during the latter half of the 20th century. The landmark Immigration Reform of 1965 helped revitalize and diversify the Chinese population, and a second generation of Chinese Americans came of age in a time of cultural activism and community organizing.

6) Made in America!? explores how globalization has transformed American culture as much as the circulation of American culture has influenced peoples and nations outside the U.S., and while globalization promotes new and complex versions of national identity, it also creates conditions for expressions of ethnicity and identity politics.



Permanent event


http://www.mocanyc.org (venue's website)


Adults $10, Seniors and Students $5, Children under 12 in groups less than 10 and MOCA Members: Free. Also Free for all on Thursday.

Venue Hours

From 11:00 To 18:00
thursdays closing at 21:00,
Closed on Mondays


Address: 215 Centre St., New York, NY 10013
Phone: 212-619-4785 Fax: 212-619-4720

Between Howard & Grand Sts. Subway: N/R/Q/W/J/M/Z/6 to Canal Street.

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