May 6, 2022 marks the 140th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was the first law placing restrictions on immigration by a specific ethnic group. To commemorate the anniversary of this law, the California Historical Society (CHS) plans to recognize its dramatic impact and severe restrictions by opening its doors to everyone.
“This was a dark time in California history and in our nation’s history. At CHS it is our mission to collect, share, and honor our diverse stories–even the difficult ones–so that Californians may utilize history’s lessons to create a brighter tomorrow for everyone,” explains CHS Executive Director and CEO Alicia Goehring.
CHS will be offering free admission to its galleries at 678 Mission Street. Starting Friday May 6th through Friday May 13th all non-member admission fees will be waived. Admission fees are always waived for members.
On view through August 13, 2022 is Chinese Pioneers: Power and Politics in Exclusion Era Photographs. The exhibition examines representations of Chinese people in photography and the illustrated press in the years leading up to and after the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, and sheds light on the history of Sinophobia and resonates with broader questions about immigration, citizenship, and border control currently being debated.
“We must recognize that Chinese people made important contributions to the early history of California and yet their role in society was constantly being debated. It is important for us to consider these facts as Californians face similar concerns regarding inclusion and belonging today.” says CHS Executive Director and CEO Alicia Goehring.
The exhibition is drawn exclusively from the California Historical Society’s deep collections of topical material. The richness of these collections presents a compelling visual history that dovetails with the social, political, and judicial disenfranchisement of Chinese Californians, as well as moments of Chinese agency and resilience.
Chinese Pioneers is a collaborative effort between CHS and the Chinese Historical Society of America (CHSA). “CHSA is proud and excited to collaborate with CHS in this exhibition and program series. As content advisors and in producing parallel programming, it is important to the community that bridges such as these be built and bolstered,” says CHSA Executive Director Justin Hoover.
CHS and CHSA worked together on a separate installation of Chinese Pioneers drawn from CHSA’s collections. The exhibition is part of the CHSA grand reopening of the museum on April 24 and will be on view in their gallery at 949 Clay Street. Hoover elaborates, “Historical photography of Chinese Americans and Chinatowns in the West, reveals the origins of an important demographic of Americans today. We know that these exhibitions will help dispel misinformation around who the Chinese in America are, as well as deeply contextualize the current situation of Asian Americans, and work towards the goals of increasing diversity, equity and inclusion in our society at large.”
The California Historical Society’s installation of Chinese Pioneers was made possible with funding from the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation.
Also on view at CHS through August 13, 2022 is From the Gold Rush to the Earthquake: Selections from the Collection which presents highlights of California history from the late-nineteenth-century: the Gold Rush, exploration of the Sierras, the burgeoning agricultural industry, and the Great San Francisco Earthquake.
The California Historical Society galleries and store are open Wednesday through Saturday 12:00 – 5:30 p.m.
ABOUT US: The California Historical Society (CHS), the official state historical society of California, has been collecting, sharing, and honoring the extraordinarily diverse stories from throughout the state for 150 years. Headquartered in San Francisco with institutional support from California Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, Yerba Buena Community Benefit District, and all of its donors and members across the state, the nonprofit organization works statewide to inspire and empower people to make California’s past a meaningful part of their contemporary lives.
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