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12.29.2008

guess what: there's a chinese american museum in l.a.

This is a pretty interesting story on the Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles, which marks its fifth anniversary this month, but still maintains a relatively low profile, largely due to its odd, unlikely location—a corner of El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the historical park featuring reminders of the city's Mexican American heritage: Chinese American Museum nods to past, looks to future.

The El Pueblo site is most famous as L.A.'s birthplace, where pioneers from Mexico having arrived in 1781. Nearly a century later, it became the home of Southern California's first Chinatown. (It was the scene of a deadly anti-Chinese riot in 1871.) Eventually, it became the site of a museum.

The problem is that museum sits in the site of the city's original Chinatown, but isn't at the heart of the community, which is either in current Chinatown or the San Gabriel Valley. How do you create a Chinese American museum for all of them? Something that expands beyond a place for just "accidental visitors"? That's the challenge that the museum intends to tackle.