13 Sep A Visit to the Museum of Chinese America
Yesterday I decided to go on a trip to the midst of Chinatown, to visit the museum of Chinese in America. I went online to find the museum website and even though the design felt a bit outdated and was not that interesting, it took me less than a minute to find all the information I needed. When I entered the museum, I was happy to see there were only a couple of other visitors in the museum and that I can be fully immersed in the experience.
The museum is designed as a chronological journey, underlying the narrative of Chinese in America. It consists of several thematic spaces, discussing different aspects of the narrative and the subject. Throughout my visit, I was impressed by the clean design which conveyed the narrative in an interesting and clear way.
Some of the spaces were better designed than others. Through my visit I kept thinking about the use of written text vs. audio as I found the exhibit to make interesting uses in sound. The best example is probably the climax of the journey, where the visitors enter a space that is designed as an old store in Chinatown. When we enter the room it actually feels like being transported to different period of time and the use of audio testimonials rather than written text, activated by buttons, allows us to get information and explanations without changing our mental state to “meta” observer.
On the other hand, this experience was very different than the visit to the main space which contains a timeline full of text excerpts. That felt like I was bombarded with a huge amount of information and in my opinion, made this space confusing and somehow tedious.
The other aspect that was very interesting was the combination of “objective” storytelling with some critique about the American culture and its attitude towards the Chinese immigrants in the past and today. The journey ended with a matrix on a wall, inviting people to express their feelings and thoughts about America’s future. I found this simple yet interactive invitation to be a very interesting, and even emotional finale to this very accurate, educating and even touching journey.