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Museum of Chinese in America may lose 85,000 items after five-alarm blaze

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The building at 70 Mulberry Street where the Museum of Chinese in America kept its archives.
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Chinatown museum’s archive is decimated after five-alarm fire

On Thursday night, a five-alarm fire tore through a Chinatown building that housed the archives of the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), a neighborhood institution founded in 1980 to preserve the history and culture of people of Chinese descent in the U.S.

Aside from storing thousands of historical items, the building, located at 70 Mulberry Street, also housed community groups and a senior center, the New York Times reported.

Around 85,000 items which were not on view at the museum’s main building on Centre Street could be gone: wedding dresses from the early 1900s, historic photos of Chinatown, items brought to the U.S. by immigrants, and even a document on the Chinese Exclusion Act from the late 19th century, the Times says.

The loss of those historical items is “absolutely devastating for the community and families like my own,” Ava Chin a writer and professor at CUNY in Staten Island, told the Times. “It is the only—the single most important—repository of New York’s Chinese community.”

Since the building has been deemed “structurally unsound,” no one will be able to enter to retrieve the items for at least three weeks, Nancy Yao Maasbach, the museum’s president, told the Times.

The museum and other organizations such as Chen Dance Center that called the building home are currently accepting donations to recover from the fire.

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