Stories and Voices from L.A. Chinatown

Stories and Voices from L.A. Chinatown, a first in the series Archive Alive which is a collaboration between The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; the Library Foundation of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) celebrates the history of Los Angeles’ Chinatown, the first community in North America to be planned and owned by people of Chinese descent.

Archive Alive activates historic photographs, documents, and maps drawn from the Huntington’s and LAPL’s vast collections through online exhibitions, site-specific installations and displays, and interviews with community members, whose personal reflections and connections bring the archives to life.

You can explore these materials by theme here. Visit the outdoor exhibition in Chinatown at 942 N Hill Street.

The online exhibition is organized in six thematic sections: Exclusion, Resilience, Vision, Opportunity, Community, and Tradition. In each section, archival materials are interpreted through video interviews with 10 community members who share their personal connections, memories, experiences, thoughts, and reactions.

The outdoor exhibition features a 250-foot-long fence-wrap surrounds a vacant lot in Chinatown on North Hill Street, between the pedestrian streets Gin Ling Way and Lei Min Way. It highlights community members’ quotes that add meaning to the archival materials reproduced along the length. It also invites passersby to visit the “Stories and Voices from L.A. Chinatown” website to view the video interviews.

Community of Chinatown is a place layered with history and there are countless stories of vision and opportunity, tradition and community, exclusion and resilience. The challenges that the community has met historically and still continues to face today are not easy. That’s why the exhibition’s collaborators hope this windows into the past will inspire a new appreciation for the unique appeal of Chinatown.

Young women in traditional Chinese dress with lanterns at Moon Festival celebration (1940) /

“If I were to see a woman walking down the street and she said ‘hello’, I would say, ‘姨姨你好 (Yiyi neihou)’ and ‘yiyi’ means aunt. This could be a complete stranger, and I would still call her aunt. I think that’s a special thing about Chinatown.”

Cindy Yan

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