Pop-up Chinatown in Salinas


Speaking of plans (see last post), we are planning a series of Chinatown pop-up museums (inspired by Santa Cruz MAH’s Chinatown pop-up museums) to happen in Salinas this year, with a tentative start date for first Friday of March, 2014 (more details when we get that date/time set). We’ll have another pop-up for the Annual Meeting of the National Council for Public History a couple weeks later. Pop-up museums are small, community-centered exhibits that are inexpensive to mount, and thrive on community participation. Lots of crazy ideas for themes are running through my head. Keep in mind that Salinas Chinatown was made up of several ethnic groups who lived in the neighborhood: Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Mexican. More recently, roughly 80-90 people live in tents and on the streets of Chinatown, and use the services there, regularly–along with others who pass through. The following are just a few ideas that I’ve been thinking of; but nothing is set in stone yet. If you have any other ideas, let me know!:

* Chinatown reunion (Did you live in or go to school in Chinatown, or have a significant Chinatown experience? Meet up with others who also lived in the neighborhood. Join us for talk-story and bring a photo or artifact!)
* Inside / Outside Chinatown (What was it like for you, living within the Chinatown neighborhood? How did you view the “outside” world? If you lived outside of Chinatown, how did you view that neighborhood? What was it like to drive by/through it, or to shop there? Bring a photo or artifact and share it.
* Your mother’s ballgown. While helping to set up the Filipino Voices exhibit at the National Steinbeck Center, I learned from a number of women in the Filipino community that their mothers sewed their family’s clothing, and some sewed Filipina ballgowns for others, sometimes for money. Some mothers (like my own) also worked in factories, sewing clothing. Bring your mother’s ballgown, sewing kit, or photos. Share the story behind those items.
* Chinatown Threads. A variation on the last theme, focusing on those great clothes that our parents wore! I still have my mother’s Filipina ballgown, and my dad’s Macintosh suit. My mother wore a very “American” looking tailored suit for the photo taken of her with my dad just before she immigrated to the U.S. Bring your dad’s suit. Or better yet, WEAR your Dad’s suit, or your mom’s dress (if you can fit into it), or photographs. Fashion show!
* Chinatown sports reunion. Yes, the kids who lived in Chinatown belonged to school sports teams. Back in the early to mid-20th century, those teams were Filipino, Chinese, or Japanese. Remember that team? Remember that great coach? Remember that game? Bring photos, baseballs, and other objects to share.
* Chinatown restaurants, Chinatown food. There were a number of restaurants in Chinatown, and they weren’t all Chinese! Who cooked? Who served? Who ate there? What was the food like, and what perceptions about Chinatown food persisted — inside and outside of Chinatown? Hmm.. Cooking demonstration? Food truck?
* Chinatown during WWII. What was going on in Chinatown during WWII? When Exec. Order 9066 was authorized and Japanese American residents were taken away to internment camps? What was it like when the men went to war? What was it like for the women in Chinatown? How did Chinatown change? Bring photographs, letters, and other objects to share, discuss.

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The purpose of the pop-up is to get the Salinas Community to participate in the Chinatown project. We want to share what we know about Chinatown, but we can also learn from those in the community who are interested and who have something to share, or a story to tell. Participation, collaboration, and a little dose of serendipity — who knows what may come of it?!

This post is part of the thread: Salinas Chinatown Museum Project – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.