Musings of a Museum Fanatic: Chinese American Museum of Chicago

8.31.2018

Chinese American Museum of Chicago


Tucked between I-90, I-55 and the river just a few streets south of the South Loop you'll find Chinatown. Walking a few blocks south of the main shopping areas on Cermak and Archer Avenue there is a museum right in the neighborhood there. This museum is the Chinese American Museum of Chicago.




Head upstairs to their permanent exhibit Great Wall to Great Lakes: Chinese Immigration to the Midwest. 
Focusing on the immigrants stories you'll see not just the general stories but very personal stories and artifacts. I highly recommend starting off your visit viewing the movie My Chinatown: Stories From Within. This 15 minute video that acquaints you to Chinatown and several important areas of it's history was so incredibly well done. As someone who has only a passing knowledge of the neighborhood and the stories of Chinese immigrants I walked away feeling like I had learned so much and had a much better understanding of this vibrant community.





In the early part of the 20th Century there was an previous Chinatown museum called the Ling Long Gallery. They had gorgeous dioramas depicting scenes from Chinese history. After the gallery closed they were donated to the museum. In 2008 unfortunately there was a devastating fire in the museum. It sounded like much of the collection was lost especially these dioramas, this was the only one that wasn't lost. The detail in it was exquisite and it makes you sad that the others were lost but happy that at least one escaped the fire. 












I think the dragon might have been one of my favorite artifacts on display!


In addition to their permanent exhibit there is a changing gallery space on the first floor. We loved seeing the history of China through the fashion. The vibrant colors and patterns were gorgeous. 




I absolutely love the hair pins. They were my favorite part of this exhibit. The different designs were so neat. Usually designs on hair pins aren't so varied, at least in ones I've seen throughout the years, I love the different animals and insects depicted. 




I wanted to take the fan above home and Stephanie wanted the shoes below. Both would be wonderful additions to any wardrobe right?



The one artifact that I really didn't like was the foot binding shoe above. I don't think I've ever actually seen one in person and it was so incredibly tiny. As someone with 9.5 sometimes size 10 shoes I just cannot imagine having to bind my feet into those shoes. I'm very glad that it is not something that is practiced anymore. As we left the gallery they had this great little section of the exhibit where they had reproduced other artifacts from the collection. I am all about getting your hands on history so I love that I see more and more museums doing stuff like this.



I loved getting the chance to visit the Chinese American Museum of Chicago during our Chicago day this past weekend. Chinatown is the somewhat hidden gem of a neighborhood with a wonderful hidden gem museum that I think should be added to everyone's must visit list.

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