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A Short History of the Museum

In the past ten years, the population of Chinese Americans in San Diego has grown substantially. According to recent statistics, the population of people with Chinese ancestry is approximately 50,000, which includes immigrants from Southeast Asia and Mainland China. Even with a large Chinese population and many Chinese community organizations, there is little public exposure to Chinese American historical and cultural heritage.

In response to this, a group of dedicated Chinese Americans founded the Chinese Historical Society in 1986. The dedicated leadership of former presidents, Tom Hom and Alexander Chuang, enabled the creation of the Chinese Historical Museum. The City of San Diego graciously provided a piece of land for the building site, and a private individual generously donated the old Chinese Mission building.

Under the leadership of Dr. Chuang and with the assistance of a group of dedicated Chinese Americans, approximately $460,000 was raised for the relocation, renovation, and reconstruction of the mission building into the Chinese Historical Museum.

The Museum building was originally a Chinese mission, located at 645 First Avenue, and designed by the nephew of one of San Diego's well-known architects, Irving Gill. The original dedication was on November 22, 1927, and the building served the Chinese community until the 1960s. The building was then moved in 1992 to a vacant lot on Third Avenue, several doors from its present site, where it was stored while the reconstruction funds were raised. The renovations were made under the direction of Joseph Wong, a nationally known local architect. Much excitement was generated during the Museum's construction. Local Chinese Americans, in addition to the general public in the surrounding area anxiously awaited its opening.

When the day finally arrived, January 13, 1996, Mayor Susan Golding was present at the Opening Ceremony and the unveiling of the Confucius sculpture donated by the Republic of China to San Diego.

Numerous people from various San Diego communities, schools, and tourists have come to see the exhibits and the beautiful Asian garden. The Asian Art Committee from the San Diego Museum of Art has attended a meeting and toured the Museum. The San Diego Congress of History has conducted a meeting and had a tour, as well. On August 8, 1996, the Main Post Office invited representatives of the Museum to their Multicultural Exhibit. Personnel from the Chinese Historical Museum set up a display and performed Chinese calligraphy, writing the names of over 800 people.

The Chinese Historical Museum has been a source of information for the community. Personnel are able to translate texts and provide historical information to persons with an interest in Chinese history. For example, a woman called the Museum for identification and translation of an old book written in Chinese. Another time, a parent called for clarification of a particular Chinese historical event mentioned in their child's lesson at school. Every year, the Chinese Historical Society offers two scholarships to the Chinese Studies program at UCSD. These scholarships are sponsored by Ambassador Drumright's Memorial Fund administered by Dr. Alexander Chuang.

Our educational program consists mainly of college research assistance and school field trips. We sometimes receive requests by college students doing research on Chinese culture and history. We provide them with material from our files or lead them to promising sources. Many of the high school and grade schools in the area, especially Chinese schools, have expressed interest in attending field trips to educational sites. We have hosted many groups in the past, and we are constantly readying ourselves for the next batch of eager students. We have displays on local archeological digs, which foster interest in the San Diego community and its own history, as well as informational exhibits on the Chinese Diaspora, Chinese American contributions and achievements, and Chinese cultural heritage.

We also commemorate, honor, or observe various historical events. On Veteran's Day, we honor all veterans of the war, but especially the contributions of Chinese American War veterans. We observed the Hong-Kong Changeover with an educational exhibit on the event, and the 60th Anniversary of the Nanking Massacre, with lectures, religious ceremonies, and displays.

An archival book has also been created to document the lives of Chinese American war veterans from the greater San Diego area. The Chinese American World War II Registration Book is a collection dedicated to the remembrance of the courageous deeds by these honorary individuals through photographs, documents, and biographies.

The Chinese Historical Museum's goal is to help Chinese Americans learn about and appreciate their heritage, foster cultural exchange and understanding between ethnic groups, and encourage multicultural diversity.

San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

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