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Chinese-American History Finds Permanent Home in San Francisco

The largest exhibition to date about Chinese-American history and experience, "Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion," was permanently installed at the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) in San Francisco this week.

The largest exhibition to date about Chinese-American history and experience, "Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion," was permanently installed at the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA) in San Francisco this week. Courtesy of CHSA

Originally created by the New York Historical Society, the exhibition explores the long history of immigration and trade between China and America, from the chinaware George Washington ordered from China, to the Chinese Exclusion Act — which banned Chinese immigrants to America from 1882 to 1943, to historic Jake Lee paintings of Chinatown, to contemporary explorations of identity through graphic novels and interactive media.

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"This is the most comprehensive exhibition on Chinese American experiences," Pam Wong, CHSA deputy director, told NBC News. "Though Chinese have been a part of this country from the very beginning, we're still seen as foreigners, as if we do not belong. This exhibition allows for us to tell our story. This is America's story."

A display featuring graphic novel art at "Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion" at the Chinese American Historical Society Courtesy of CHSA

According to the exhibition prospectus, the exhibition "immerses visitors in a broad sweep of history, presenting key protagonists and signal events, while also creating compelling spaces that present stories and micro-histories and other layers of objects, documents, and media for discovery."

The exhibition also features an education curriculum meeting national content standards.

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"This is an unprecedented opportunity and an unprecedented gift for us," Sue Lee, executive director of the Chinese Historical Society said in a statement. "The curatorial quality, the historical detail, and the hands-on interactive technology of this exhibit are unlike anything we have ever done. Its educational potential really raises the bar for us."

A suitcase on display in "Chinese American: Inclusion/Exclusion" Courtesy of CHSA

The museum closed for several months while the exhibition was being installed and reopened this week with the launch of the exhibition.

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