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A new exhibit on old Chinatown opens at the Detroit Historical Museum.

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DETROIT – Friends of Detroit’s Chinatown will open its new exhibit Detroit’s Chinatown: Works in Progress on Saturday, April 4 at the Detroit Historical Museum. This three-month exhibit, sponsored by Wayne State University, reveals the untold stories of Chinatown residents and the current presence of metro Detroit’s Chinese American population.

The Detroit’s Chinatown exhibit uses stunning photography, artifacts, and personal interviews of former Chinatown residents to illustrate the contributions of this lost cultural area. Local artifacts, including grocery scales from the 1800s, a silk dress purchased from a Chinatown business, original paraphernalia from Chin Tiki, a Polynesian-style restaurant and club, and images from previous Chinese New Year celebrations, reflect the experiences of Chinatown residents and visitors.

“I’m really excited to provide the opportunity for visitors to come and view the Detroit’s Chinatown exhibit, because the Asian American presence in and contribution to the city of Detroit have not been highlighted in our public institutions until this point,” said Chelsea Zuzindlak, the exhibit’s curator.

Detroit’s Chinatown began when Chinese laundrymen first settled in the city at Third Ave. and Porter St. in 1872. A new wave of immigrants led by five Chinese families opened restaurants, groceries, and a Chinese school between 1910 and the late 1950s. In 1963, Chinatown relocated to Cass Ave. and Peterboro St., where it experienced some success before political and social changes led to its demise in 1987.

In-depth interviews of three Chinatown residents give visitors to the exhibit an intimate glimpse into the old neighborhood’s history and culture. Visitors will also discover the complex factors leading to the disappearance of Chinatown, future preservation plans for Chinatown artifacts, and the recent reappearance of Asian businesses in local suburbs. Detroit’s Chinatown: Work in Progress, presented in English and standard Mandarin Chinese, is open through Sunday, July 5 in the Museum’s Community Gallery, presented by Comerica.

The Detroit Historical Museum, located at 5401 Woodward Ave. (NW corner of Kirby) in Detroit’s Cultural Center area, is open to the public Wednesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from Noon to 5 p.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Museum is not open to the public but available for group tours by calling (313) 833-7979. Adult admission is $6. Seniors (60+), college students with valid college ID, and youth ages 5-18 pay $4. Admission for children ages four and under is free. Parking in the Museum’s lot is $4 at all times. Permanent exhibits include the famous Streets of Old Detroit; Frontiers to Factories; The Motor City; and The Glancy Trains. New exhibits include Detroit’s Classic TV Personalities; Hero or Villain? Metro Detroit’s Legacy of Leadership; 1920s: Detroit’s Building Boom; 100 Years Ago; and Automotive Showplace, spotlighting the Model T Centennial. For more information, call the Museum at (313) 833-1805 or check out our website at
Detroit's Chinatown: Works in Progress Promotional Postcard

April 4 - July 5, 2009

Please join us as we remember and celebrate the experiences of Asian Americans in Metro Detroit at The Detroit Historical Museum.

5401 Woodward Ave.
Detroit, MI 48202

(313) 833-1805

Click flyer for larger version:

SCII Global Focus Series: Detroit Chinatown and its Revitilization Efforts

Monday, Nov. 10 · 1:00-2:00PM
McDowell Center @ Schoolcraft College

By integrating ethnographic data with U.S. and Chinese national statistics, Ms. Zuzlindlak explores the complexities of emigrants' motives in an increasingly transnational and global environment.

Download flyer (.pdf)
Community Gallery

Upcoming exhibit: Detroit’s Chinatown
Presented by: Chelsea Zuzindlak, Student Researcher

Exhibit opens April 4, 2009 – July 5, 2009

This exhibit will tell the untold and often forgotten story of the people and events that aided in the development as well as the decline of the cultural community and immigrant area known as Detroit’s Chinatown. In addition, this exhibit will explore the efforts of local activist groups to renovate the cultural space, an area with immense potential for new growth and preservation.


推出者﹕研究生﹐Chelsea Zuzindlak



Call for Artifacts

We need your help! In spring 2009, we will mount the first exhibit on Detroit’s Chinatown at the Detroit Historical Museum located at 5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202.

The aim of this exhibit is to tell the untold and often forgotten stories of a people and place that once thrived on Third Ave. and Porter St. during World War II, but was relocated to Cass Ave. and Peterboro St. in the 1960s as part of a city-wide housing demolition project. The residents of Chinatown in Detroit worked tirelessly to aid the war effort overseas in the 1930s, drawing the support of icons, such as Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, and were admired for their festive celebrations of the Chinese New Year for over 90 years. However, many political, economic, and social factors culminated, aiding in the eventual demise of the once vibrant and populated area.

In order for this exhibit to take shape, we need you to help us find artifacts that will enable us to enrich the story of Detroit’s Chinatown.

Below are examples of artifacts that we are seeking, but this list is not exclusive. Please contact Chelsea Zuzindlak at (313) 833-0242 or to inquire about any artifacts you are interested in donating or loaning for the exhibit.

Some artifacts we are looking for are: WWII propaganda posters, boycott of Japanese goods flyers/posters, 19th century laundry equipment, Chinese New Year décor or costumes, goods from Chinese businesses, Chinese or Western clothing from residents, event pamphlets, La Choy recipe booklets, news paper articles, photographs, letters, or postcards.

徵求紀念性的文物 我們需要您的幫忙!二○○九年的春天﹐我們將在底特律歷史博物館 (5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, MI 48202) 首次舉辦底特律華埠文物展。

這個展覽的主要目的﹐在於陳述一群人和他們生活的地方﹐一些不為人知或者被遺忘的故事。第二次世界大戰的時候﹐他們在第三街(Third Street) 和 Porter 街一帶繁榮一時﹐一九六○年代﹐在拆毀舊屋的都市計劃下﹐他們遷移到 Cass 街和Peterboro街一帶。一九三○年代﹐底特律華埠的居民﹐不辭辛勞地為海外的戰事獻出勞力﹐招來了當時風雲人物的協助﹐像蔣介石的夫人。九十年來﹐他們在中國新年歡樂的慶典﹐總是令人羨慕。然而﹐許多政治經濟社會因素的累積﹐終於造成這個曾經繁榮一時的地帶的衰敗。


以下是我們正在搜尋的紀念文物的種類﹐可是並不僅限於這些。請和 Chelsea Zuzindlak接洽有關您想為這個文物展覽捐贈或者出借的紀念文物。電話﹕(313)833-0242, 電郵﹕


Project Promo
Detroit Chinatown: Works in Progress
April 4 – July 5 2009

Come April 4, 2009, visitors to the Detroit Historical Museum can enjoy a temporary exhibit, “Detroit Chinatown: Works in Progress,” that will help deepen their understanding our region’s rich Asian American history. Visitors young and old can walk back in time and view archived photographs of Chinatown’s bustling city streets during World War II or browse detailed biographies of Chinatown’s movers and shakers. Divided into sections on infrastructure, culture, narratives, and community, this exhibit will also explore the social, political, and economic factors that aided in the decline of one of the largest ethnic boroughs in wartime Detroit. Please join us in remembering and celebrating the experiences of Asian Americans in metro Detroit from the late nineteenth century to today.

二○○九年四月四日 -- 二○○九年七月五日


Detroit Chinatown: Works In Progress
An Historical Research Project and Exhibition

Since the first “Oriental” arrived in Detroit from the Canton region and opened a laundry service on Gratiot Street in 1872, the geographic and ethnic area known as “Detroit Chinatown” rapidly expanded its residential and commercial hold on Third Avenue. Between 1890 and 1920, the Chinese population in Chinatown increased from 50 to 1,500 and continued to grow thereafter. Chinese organizations like the On Leong Merchants Association and the Association of Chinese Americans were economic and cultural strongholds in the community, organizing for residents’ interests, sponsoring drives for aid during World War II, and hosting events ranging from Chinese New Year celebrations to healthcare advisory sessions. Though mostly socially isolated during the early years of the 20th century, Detroit’s Chinatown soon became a focal point and destination for “nosy” journalists, constituents of the local government, and international members of the elite, like Madame Chiang Kai-Shek in the 1940s and 1960s.

The modes in which the history of Chinese populations’ residence in the City of Detroit and the surrounding suburban neighborhoods intertwine with local, national, and international trends are particularly poignant. For example, Detroit News and Detroit Free Press articles that report on the “Chinese colony” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries are indicative of both perceptions of racial identity and attitudes toward racial difference of the transforming status-quo. The fluidity of reporters’ rhetoric and points of interest in the ethnic enclave over a period of one hundred years did not dictate, but rather encouraged a simultaneous shift in the ways in which the general public and people of power viewed, categorized, and documented an individual’s or a community’s “Chineseness.” Furthermore, shifts in the economic vitality of countries vying for resources and revenue in the global market, also affected citizens of Asian descent in Detroit. During the murder trials of Vincent Chin, a young Chinese man beaten to death by a Ford autoworker who mistook him for Japanese, thousands of Asian Americans mobilized nationally, but especially in the Motor City, to combat the racial sentiments felt by hundreds of autoworkers who blamed new foreign markets, particularly in Japan, for layoffs on the line. Such historical currents like those above and others that highlight the themes of race, gender, class, nationalism, patriotism, and the question of cultural continuity in the multi-cultural urban environment of Detroit not only define Detroit Chinatown, but also illuminate the story of a people and a place that has long been ignored.
Program Entry

    In 1872, the first "Oriental" arrived in Detroit from China. Named "Ah-chee," he opened a laundry on Gratiot in downtown Detroit. As more Chinese immigrants migrated to Detroit from both coastal cities in the West and other mid-western cities like Chicago, the residential and commercial district once referred to as Chinatown began to rapidly expand on Third Avenue in the 1920s and 30s. By recording oral histories and organizing hundreds of archived materials on the geographic and ethnic region in Detroit, a story of a people and place that has yet to be told has begun to unfold. Stories laden with themes of race, gender, gentrification, nationalism, patriotism, and cultural continuity and change emerge that describe the successes and struggles of one of Detroit’s Asian American populations during the pre and post World War II eras. An exhibit on the same topic will open April 4, 2009 at the Detroit Historical Museum. (
    Though a distinguishing characteristic of Detroit is its diverse population, not much is known of its first Chinese settlers. By recording oral histories and analyzing archived materials on the geographic and ethnic region once known as Detroit Chinatown, a story of people and place begins to emerge-stories laden with themes of race, gender, gentrification, nationalism, patriotism, and the question of cultural continuity in a multi-cultural urban environment. Situated in the historical currents of southeastern Michigan and the U.S. are the successes and struggles of one of Detroit’s Asian American populations during the pre and post World War II eras. An exhibit on the same topic will open in 2009 at the Detroit Historical Museum.
    一八七二年﹐第一個“東方人”從中國來到了底特律。他名叫“Ahchee",在底特律商業區的Gratiot街上開了一間洗衣店。隨着更多的中國移民﹐從西海岸的都市和中西部的城市如芝加哥的來到﹐這個俗稱華埠的住宅區和商業區﹐在一九二○年代和一九三○年代﹐迅速地擴張到第三街。 藉著口述歷史的記錄﹐以及數以百計有關底特律地理和種族區的檔案資料的整理﹐我們終於能夠開始解說﹐這一群人和他們居住謀生所在地﹐一直等著人們來述說的故事。帶著種族﹑性別﹑社會階層的提昇﹑民族主義﹑愛國主義﹑文化傳承與改變等色彩的故事﹐描繪了二次大戰前後這段期間﹐底特律亞裔美國人人口之一的這群人的成功與掙扎。一個同樣題材的文物展覽﹐將於二○○九年四月四日在底特律歷史博物館展出。參見﹕