‘Our time is now’: How the California Museum is honoring Chinese American history

A long-term installation on Chinese American history in California dating to the Gold Rush period is now open to the public at the California Museum in Sacramento.

The exhibit, which began Sunday, lays out the history since the 1840s through a display of historical artifacts, photographs, interactive video stations and activities.

The exhibit is very important to teach our community, others and our children about the history, said state Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, at the grand opening. Pan is the first Asian American to represent Sacramento in the California Senate.

“We have waited long enough,” Pan said. “Our time is now, and it is important that Chinese Americans and all Asian and Pacific Islanders have the opportunity to play leadership roles in this state and this country.”

The role of Chinese Californians in building the transcontinental railroad is well-known, but their other contributions in shaping the state over the last 175 years are often overlooked, said Amanda Meeker, the museum’s executive director.

“This exhibit highlights their unsung role in the state’s past and present while revealing connections to current issues of race, nationalism and civil rights,” Meeker said.

The exhibit covers six themed sections in its exploration of the Chinese American experience from the Gold Rush to now. It displays contributions not only to the transcontinental railroad to its completion in 1869, but also to the state’s agriculture, fishing and manufacturing. It also features how Chinese Californians fought racist laws, including the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a federal law that barred immigration from Chinese laborers, as well as the incarceration of Chinese immigrants at the Angel Island Immigration Station from 1910 to 1940.

Visitors watch an animated video about the story of Dr. Henry Yee, Chinese American who came to the U.S. in 1908, at the California Museum in Sacramento on Jan. 26, 2020

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