For over 12 years, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum has sought to collect, preserve, and share Chinese American art, culture and history in order to showcase the many contributions Chinese Americans have made to the culture and history of Southern California. Truly, this museum is an often overlooked but awesome thing to do in San Diego that is great for the entire family. The museum’s permanent collection includes artifacts from both sides of the Pacific, including meticulously researched models of old Chinatown as well as a Chinese fishing village to better represent both worlds Chinese Americans held as their roots. The museum in fact is housed in a former mission building for Chinese immigrants. The museum expanded with additions in 2004 to better accommodate its growing collection. The Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension, thanks to a generous endowment from his descendants, features a modern gallery and lecture hall that houses rotating exhibits.
San Diego’s Chinese Historical Museum also reaches beyond its doors to serve the community. Since 1998, the museum has sponsored outreach programs into local school systems in order to better tell the history of Chinese Americans in the settlement of California. Student and community groups are encouraged to take tours of the museum. Classroom Exhibit Presentations bring the history to the local schools themselves, serving as an educational outreach to further support the museum’s mission of service to the community.
The museum is really about telling the story of Chinese Americans. It features scale models of old Chinese homes and businesses, so you really a feel of what San Diego was like back then. It features an eclectic collection of traditional Chinese art and antiques. Its registry of local Chinese American veterans inspired a 2010 book. The museum outgrew its original building, but expanded in 2004, purchasing exhibit space on the ground floor of a new building at 328 J S. The exhibits rotate every few months, so there’s always something new to offer. The museum library is also worth a visit, whether you’re doing research on the early Chinese American experience or simply curious.
The San Diego Chinese Historical Museum was founded in 1996 by the San Diego Chinese Historical Society, which had formed 10 years prior. Since then it has outgrown its original building but continues to share the heritage of San Diego’s Chinese community and the essence of Chinese arts and culture through historic photographs, miniature models, ancient artifacts and explanatory text. The museum hosts special events to commemorate holidays including the Chinese New Year, the Moon Festival, and Veterans Day. A docent led museum and garden tour are held the first Saturday of every month at 11:00 am. It features the permanent collection as well as feature exhibits.
From monthly tours to an annual Ramen Cook-off, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum is always keeping itself active and engrained in the community. Interesting in learning Tai Chi? Every Saturday this San Diego museum offers free lessons from 9am – 10am with instructor Dane Dormio. Want to improve your Mandarin language skills? Even if you are just a beginner, they encourage students of all levels to participate each Saturday for the museum’s weekly Madarin Meet Up, a free event from 10am-11am just sign up here. Check their website or social media for additional future events in San Diego this summer.