MARCELLA B. CHIN DEAR
Marcella B. Chin Dear is a native daughter of Manhattan’s Chinatown as she was born and bred in New York City. The Chin family’s businesses including the restaurant Rice Bowl, Rice Bowl Realty, Cathay Hardware, Walter’s Sandwich Shop on Mulberry and Marcella B. Chin Dear’s brother Dr. Newton Chin’s ophthalmology practice were all well-known in the community. The Chins of Mott and Mulberry Streets have touched many individual lives through their various businesses and professions. Marcella played an important role in working and shaping all these entities as she always maintained that “she was happy to help out her family.”
Mrs. Chin Dear attended P.S. 23 in Chinatown, New York and the Pui Ying School in Guangzhou, China. She graduated from Washington Irving High School and attended New York University’s School of Commerce where she was the only female majoring in International Trade studies. She met her husband Walter Dear at the legendary Lonnie’s Coffee Shop and they lived in the community throughout their marriage.
Both longtime supporters of MOCA since its beginning as the Chinatown History Project, Marcella and Walter Dear decided to donate their personal family archive of articles, signage and photographs which is the largest individual contribution to MOCA’s permanent collection. Marcella’s energy and enthusiasm for the preservation of the Chinatown community’s rich history serves as an inspiration to many. Marcella B. Chin Dear is an honoree of MOCA’s Third Annual Celebration of Community Heroes. This year, Marcella B. Chin Dear is 89 years old and she is an active member of the Chinatown community.
A Collective History: The Marcella Chin Dear Collection
The staff’s archival gloves left imprints of white on the otherwise dusty surfaces of the large, ceramic vessels they were lifting. The vessels, three feet high by one and a half feet in diameter formally used to store dried goods, were much lighter than they seemed. Almost instinctively, the staff formed a chain line, passing the containers from one to another up three flights of stairs until they had removed all of them. After over a week of this routine – carrying, photographing, cataloging, and packing over 1,000 items – the staff was almost finished accessioning one of the most fascinating and complete collections ever donated to the Museum, in 2006.
A Welcome to USA Citizenship Booklet, On the occasion of Chin Suey Bing’s naturalization, 1953, Courtesy of Dear Marcella, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection.
While Chinatown has been home to numerous immigrant groups that have since moved out of New York or to the suburbs of other boroughs, the Chin family have remained in the neighborhood for five generations straight. Marcella’s grandfather first arrived in New York in the late 1800s, settling in Chinatown and working as a laundryman. Before resettling in Hong Kong, he sent for his 19-year old son, Chin Suey Bing. Living most of his adult life apart from his immediate family, Suey Bing relied on the support of the Chin Family Association and other business networks. He would later establish himself as a community leader and successful local businesses, whose enterprises located mostly along Mott Street, included an import-export company, hardware store, liquor store, and the famed Rice Bowl restaurant. Suey Bing’s other roles were as husband and father. He married Tsui Chun Guey in China, returning with her to the United States and raising a family of six children.
A photograph of the Chin family taken circa 1955. Marcella is seated on the far right.
The family kept close ties with Asia and the Chin children were sent to China for their early schooling at Guangdong’s prestigious Pui Ching boarding school. However, with the advent of World War II, the Chin family resettled in Chinatown. In 1945, they moved into the Mulberry Street apartment which held invaluable reminders of the family’s incredible story – now part of MOCA’s permanent collection.
Shanghai Pathe Record - The Phantom Lover Disc 1, Courtesy of Marcella Dear, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection
The objects reconstruct the daily domestic and business activities of the family and their connection to both Chinese and American cultures. Dozens of textiles, hundreds of imported books, old vinyl records, posters, game sets, instruments, family photographs, store signs, ceramics, and furniture were all treasures capturing one Chinese family’s life in America.
Rice Bowl Restaurant Postcard (Interior), Courtesy of Dear Marcella, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection
Many of these items come from the family’s businesses, including a large selection from their Rice Bowl restaurant. Considered one of the fanciest restaurants in Chinatown during its operation from 1939 through 1970, the Rice Bowl required men to wear a jacket and tie for meals and was one of the first banquet halls in the neighborhood to have air conditioning. The restaurant attracted everyone from locals to celebrities like silent-film star Mae Murray and Alan Alda.
Print Block, Rice Bowl Restaurant, Chinatown, Courtesy of Dear Marcella, Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) Collection
The objects are invaluable in illustrating the moments from the Chinese community in America’s past through the story of the Chin family from late 1800s to late 1970s. Paired with Marcella B. Chin Dear’s oral narratives and taped interviews, the Marcella Chin Dear Collection is rich in depth and diversity. It offers a glimpse into the cultural life of Chinatown and what it took for a Chinese family to build a life in America.
This spring, Museum of Chinese in America will present a contemporary Chinese ink exhibit featuring the works of Qiu Deshu, Wei Jia, and Zhang Hongtu. Stay tuned for updates!
In the latest MOCATALKS panel, Shanghai Glamour: Fashioning New Women, the Museum of Chinese in America brought together Shanghai Glamour guest curator Mei Mei Rado, Barnard Professor Dorothy Ko, and fashion designers Peggy Tan (Mandarin and General) and Priscilla Shunmugam (Ong Shunmugam) for a stimulating discussion on the history and modern day appropriation of the cheongsam.
The cheongsam, often referred to as the qipao or mandarin gown, played a pivotal role in shaping the female body and identity in Shanghai at the turn of the twentieth century. Mei Mei Rado kicked off the conversation by giving the audience a brief history of the iconic dress, which was first conceived in the 1920s. According to Rado, the cheongsam was loose and straight in its earliest form in order to mask the wearer’s body. It wasn’t until the mid-1930s that the dress took on the tight, body-hugging style that we recognize today in fashion and popular culture.
Yet, a significant part of the cheongsam’s evolution was its popularity among wealthy women and upper class courtesans in 1920s Shanghai. This new, fashion-conscious group of women made the cheongsam fashionable, and soon, others started following the trend, which was featured in the popular women’s journals of the time.
Throughout the years, the cheongsam has gone through many changes in form, but it has remained a potent symbol of femininity and modernity, as reflected by the designs of Peggy Tan and Priscilla Shunmugam. For instance, Tan brings the knowledge that she learned from spending a summer in Taiwan with a famous cheongsam master team into her designs. Her label, Mandarin & General, aims to celebrate her roots by utilizing traditional Chinese garment making principles in a modern context. Similarly, Shunmugam reworks these cultural influences into her own label, Ong Shunmugam, by weaving traditional textile techniques, colors and silhouettes into her work. During the talk, Tan and Shunmugam sported their own designs. Tan wore a loose-fitting cheongsam fashioned out of chambray fabric, while Shunmugam wore a sleeveless version with a circle skirt.Through their labels, these up-and-coming designers hope to integrate the cheongsam into the everyday wardrobe.
Following the success of our first summer DIY Day, MOCA held a second workshop for teens that proved just as fun and creative! This most recent workshop was led by New York-based fashion blogger Lesley Ware (the founder of The Creative Cookie). Lesley brought her creative spirit and led participants in making innovative, upcycled accessories. Participating teens used a variety of materials ranging from industrial hardware to fabrics, lace, and Swarovski Elements. Again, a big thanks to Swarovski for hooking us up with glamorous crystals to craft with.
First, our lovely participants were given an interactive tour of the museum’s two fashion focused exhibits: Front Row and Shanghai Glamour.
Next, they wasted no time in getting crafty with all the fun materials. Check out their “brilliant” creations below!
Who would have thought that these industrial materials could be re-purposed to make such elegant pieces?
We just love this combination of pretty oceanic colors and delicate lace juxtaposed with the boldness of washers and safety pins.
A little sparkle…and A LOT of pizazz.
This chunky, textured bow and shimmery icicle crystal necklace are both fabulous statement pieces for any outfit.
Stay tuned for more DIY from MOCA. Our Front Row and Shanghai Glamour exhibitions are the perfect inspiration for your own DIY projects. Check them out until September 29th, 2013 and share your creations with us!
Anna Sui in conversation with MOCA for our fashion exhibition, Front Row. Don’t miss a chance to see the exhibit shocasing designs by Anna Sui, along with other amazing Asian American designers in the industry! For more information check out our website.
MOCA launched its 1st ever Summer DIY Day last Saturday, July 13th, 2013, and what a blast it was! After mining special exhibition Front Row:Chinese American Designers for inspiration, expert DIYer and fashion Blogger, Amanda Kocis (aka HocusKocis), led teens (and adults alike) in the creation of their own original accessories. A big thanks to Swarovski Elements for providing us with the crystals to make this session extra-glitzy. Check out this look book of their stunning creations below!
Getting crafty with leather, studs, and denim.
Bracelets, Collars and Rings… we had everything scream “BLING BLING!”
Everyone got to take home their wearable works of art!
Look at these participants in action.
MOCA’s Summer DIY Day series continues with a second accessory making workshop for teens featuring Lesley Ware (aka The Creative Cookie) on July 27th, 2013! See you there. For more information click here: http://www.mocanyc.org/visit/events/summer_diy_days_accessory_making_workshop_0.
Sign up for this event by emailing: email@example.com or call 212.619.4785 x4150
"There was something that was motivating me to go to red that season and I never know where inspiration comes from. It’s very intuitive, personal and of the moment. I believe that this was definitely a moment that I wanted to embrace that color and what it symbolizes to not only to Chinese and Chinese Americans but everyone. There’s a sense of happiness, good fortune, and optimism, and I think that’s very much what the red dress represents." - Vera Wang
These exhibitions, which explore the relationships between the places that shape us and the fashions that reflect us, serve as inspiration for our newest online project: My Front Row. We will regularly post an outfit from the exhibitions with a quotation from the look’s designer. Using the hashtag #MyFrontRow, we invite you to snap and share a photo of an outfit inspired by our post that represents the city or region where you were raised or currently reside. We’ll follow along, reblogging our favorites!
Our next outfit inspiration comes from Vera Wang, one of the most famous designers of wedding couture (and runway and ready-to-wear and lifestyle products, and more!) We can’t wait to see what you share!
Co-presented with the Museum of Chinese in America
What possibilities do technologies pose for alternative fashions, embodiments, and representations? How can relationships between consumer and producer shift in the digital realm?
Minh-ha T. Pham (Threadbared; Of Another Fashion; Cornell University), Ashley Mears (Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model; Boston University), Mimi Thi Nguyen (Threadbared; The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), and Sharon Heijin Lee (New York University) discuss the power of social media and other technologies to create platforms for alternative aesthetics and challenge inequitable structures of production.
Admission: $12 general, $7 MOCA members. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. A limited number of A/P/A guests will receive special pricing to attend this program. Details will be announced on our newsletter.
Sharon Heijin Lee is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University. Lee is currently working on a manuscript that maps the discursive formation of plastic surgery in South Korea, Asia, and Asian America by asking how it has become economically necessary and a viable form of self-management. Lee’s research agenda seeks to theorize the concealed relations between seemingly unrelated and often uninterrogated spheres—popular and consumer culture, medicine, tourism, the military, and other governmental institutions—and her work has been published in Women and Performance: Journal of Feminist Theory.
Ashley Mears is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University. She is the author of Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model (University of California Press, 2011). Mears, who worked as a model in New York and London, draws on observations as well as extensive interviews with male and female models, agents, clients, photographers, stylists, and others, to explore the economics and politics—and the arbitrariness— behind the business of glamour. Pricing Beauty examines the racial and gender aspects of fashion’s labor market at a moment when immaterial commodities (e.g. blogs) are becoming key sources of capital accumulation.
Mimi Thi Nguyen is Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Asian American Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and is co-founder of Threadbared. Her first book, called The Gift of Freedom: War, Debt, and Other Refugee Passages, focuses on the promise of “giving” freedom concurrent and contingent with waging war and its afterlife (Duke University Press, 2012). She continues to understand her scholarship through the frame of transnational feminist cultural studies, and in particular as an untangling of the liberal way of war that pledges “aid,” freedom, rights, movement, and other social goods, with her following project on the obligations of beauty. She is also co-editor with Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu of Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2007), and co-editor with Fiona I.B. Ngo and Mariam Lam of a special issue of positions on Southeast Asians in diaspora (Winter 2012). She publishes also on queer subcultures, the politics of fashion, and punk feminisms.Minh-Ha T. Pham is an Assistant Professor in the History of Art & Visual Studies Department and the Asian American Studies Program at Cornell University. She is co-author of a research blog on the politics of fashion called Threadbared and the founder of a digital archive of the fashion histories of U.S. women of color called Of Another Fashion. Her research primarily focuses on the interrelations of aesthetics, race, and fashion technologies though she has also written about sound and film technologies. She has published in a wide array of forums from academic journals to popular and political magazines. In addition, her research has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Nation, San Francisco Chronicle,NPR, Chronicle of Higher Education, among other media sites. She is completing a book on the racial and gender politics of fashion blog forms and practices.
We’re looking forward to this panel - see you there!
Tumblr Tuesday: 2013 CFDA Award Winners Edition
Every year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honors established and emerging members of the fashion industry. Huge congrats to all, especially our friends on Tumblr:
The Menswear Designer of the Year: Thom Browne
Womenswear Designer of the Year: Proenza Schouler (who won with their Tumblr inspired Spring 2013 collection!)
Swarovski Award for Accessory Design: Pamela Love
The Media Award: Tim Blanks of Style.com
The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award: Vera Wang
The Founders Award: Oscar de la Renta
On the subject of Fashion: we are thrilled to be exhibiting Vera Wang’s incredible red wedding dress, picture above, in our exhibition Front Row: Chinese American Designers. Congrats on the CFDA award, Vera!