Volunteers Help Restore Fire-Damaged Chinese Archive

An online exhibition about this incident is available on Google Arts & Culture

Volunteers for MOCA Archives Fire Recovery. 2020
Photo: Edward Cheng
Museum of Chinese in America

On January 23, 2020, a fire broke out in a five-story building built in 1892 in Manhattan. The second floor housed the Museum of Chinese in America research and archival center, with a collection of more than 85,000 historical objects. The museum's team has now posted photo and video documentation, news materials, and social media posts from that evening on the Google Arts & Culture platform, which document the consequences of the fire and the restoration process.

70 Mulberry Street—One Month On, 2020
Photo: Beichen Zhang
Museum of Chinese in America

The fire did not reach the archive. The main threat to the collection and the premises was water from the fire extinguishing process and the tons of debris from the collapsed roof and upper floors. Immediate restoration was required, but for security reasons, the museum team was only able to get to the destroyed center after three weeks. At first, the management feared that the artifacts would be irretrievably lost but, thanks to the support of nearly four hundred volunteers, more than 95 percent of the archive's collection was preserved. The organizers believe that this victory was achieved thanks to the caring community, which carried out the rescue operations as quickly as possible.

More information about the museum is on the website.