“What does home mean to you?” is the question asked at the Museum of Chinese in Australia (Moca), a first-of-its-kind interactive museum curated by the local Chinese-Australian community. Taking over the sandstone Haymarket Library in the heart of Chinatown, which once offered the largest Chinese-language book collection of any Australian public library, Moca is now a space for stories and contributions from past, present and future generations of Chinese Australians.
While the museum officially opens in 2023, it recently launched a temporary showcase of things to come.
“This pop-up is to help the community understand the transition of this building,” Moca’s executive director, Tony Stephens, tells Broadsheet. “The building is very much rooted in the community, because it was one of the only places people could access periodicals in Chinese or other languages.”
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The pop-up is currently showing Stories of Home, an exhibition featuring Chinese-Australian tastemakers Brian and Vincent Wu (who own Incu); artist and producer Rainbow Chan; Jane Lu, founder of online retailer Showpo; and artists Louise Zhang and Chris Yee. Lining the old library bays and shelves are their deeply personal and nostalgic stories about growing up in two intersecting cultures, as well as knick-knacks and photos that remind them of home – however they choose to interpret that concept. On a lighter note, you’ll also find their favourite spots in and around Chinatown.
Community is deeply embedded in Moca’s DNA. Visitors can bring along photos from their home – the ones you’d normally find on a mantlepiece – and pop them into one of the empty frames on display. As part of the ongoing project, members of the community are invited to go online and share their personal stories of home, which will eventually be displayed on an LED screen in the museum. As the contributions grow, Moca will work with a range of creatives and digital producers to arrange those stories into a narrative.
“This is a call to action, and what we’re doing as a museum is pretty unique,” says Stephens. “We’re crowdsourcing our content from individuals. Not big stories of heroism, but everyday stories of you and I. We want to create a space that tells a full story. Whatever the migration journey is, it’s part of the story. We want to show how diverse Chinese Australia is. It’s not just one culture from mainland China, but a vast diaspora like Chinese Singaporeans or Chinese Vietnamese. Moca is a space for community. We’re not dictating what it should look like, rather we’re facilitating an engagement.”
The Museum of Chinese in Australia
744 George Street, Haymarket
Wed to Fri 10am–4pm