FIRE AT 70 MULBERRY STREET

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The preliminary batch of Bocian’s photographs and artifacts chosen for this exhibition had been brought to the Center for Jewish History one week before the fire, sparing this small selection from potential ruin. Numerous additional items that had been planned for inclusion are now damaged or inaccessible. Several images on display in this exhibition were available only because they had been previously digitized by MOCA.

 

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A contact sheet of Ali touring Chinatown. Final image features Ali and Louis Farrakhan in a convertible.

Muhammad Ali Negatives

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

Collection

 

Some photos and artifacts planned for inclusion had been temporarily moved into a MOCA staff office for convenient transport to the Center for Jewish History the following day. Materials in that area of the building were irretrievable. Among these items were strips of negatives with unprinted images of Muhammad Ali’s trip to Chinatown in 1974.

Parade gawkers standing infront of Mee Heung Chow Main Co. Noodle Manufacturers.
MOCA staff removing the fabric awning and sign from the Mee Heung Chow Main noodle company
MOCA staff transporting the glass sign to the MOCA colection

Noodle Shop Sign

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection

The large glass sign visible in these photos, salvaged by MOCA in 1992, was selected for this exhibition but was unable to be recovered from the building after the fire. A noodle factory founded at 75 Mott Street around 1927, Mee Heung Chow Main was a staple of the Chinatown community for over 60 years.

Water-damaged Artifacts

MOCA staff reviewing boxes rescued from the fire at Mott Street.
Misc. objects waiting in a holding facility to be looked over after the fire.
Damaged boxes sitting on the steps after the fire.

As the MOCA archive had been housed on the 2nd floor, below the source of the flames, the harm was inflicted by water from the hoses. The most heavily damaged materials were sent to be freeze-dried to maintain their integrity and prevent mold growth (this includes the bulk of Bocian’s collection) while the rest were brought to MOCA to be triaged onsite. Conservators from A.M. Art Conservation, Brooklyn Museum, Center for Jewish History, Museum of Art & Design, Museum of Modern Art, NYC Department of Records and Information Services, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and National 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and others assisted in the rescue effort, which was spearheaded by the Alliance for Response New York City, a non-profit organization that helps with disaster recovery in the cultural heritage community. To date, the salvaged collections have been professionally dried, but a full conservation assessment (made possible with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation) will be conducted to determine the full extent of the damage.  MOCA has also found a new home for the archives and research center at 3 Howard Street, though the space will not be open to the public until 2021.