For over 12 years, the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum sought to collect, preserve and share Chinese American art, culture and history. By doing so, they showcase the many contributions Chinese Americans made to the culture and history of Southern California. Truly, this museum is an often overlooked but also an awesome family-friendly thing to do in San Diego.
The museum’s permanent collection includes artifacts from both sides of the Pacific. Additionally, there’s well researched models of old Chinatown and a Chinese fishing village to better represent both worlds Chinese Americans held as their roots. Housed in a former mission building for Chinese immigrants, the museum expanded in 2004 to better accommodate its growing collection. The Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Extension, thanks to a generous donation from his descendants, features a modern gallery and lecture hall housing rotating exhibits.
This museum also reaches beyond its doors to serve the community. Since 1998, the museum sponsors 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. This helps serve as an educational outreach to further support the museum’s mission of service to the community.
The museum tells a compelling story of Chinese Americans. It features scale models of old Chinese homes and businesses to give visitors a feel of the past. 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. 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. Since then, it continues to share the heritage of S.D.’s Chinese community. It also shares the essence of Chinese arts and culture through historic photographs, miniature models, ancient artifacts and text. The museum hosts special events to celebrate 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 a.m. 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 always keeps itself active in the community. Interesting in learning Tai Chi? Every Saturday, this museum offers free lessons from 9-10 a.m. with instructor Dane Dormio. Want to improve your Mandarin language skills? Even if you are just a beginner, students of all levels can participate each Saturday for the museum’s free weekly Mandarin Meet Up from 10-11 a.m. Check their website or social media for additional future events.
Photo courtesy San Diego Chinese Historical Museum via Facebook.