Thursday, April 17, 2008

Street view of the Chinese American Museum of Los Angeles (CAMLA) in the historic Garnier Building.

A replica of a working Chinese herbalist shop was once housed in the Garnier Building.

Today was fast and furious. It started at 4am with Phoebe knocking on my door, and there hasn't been a dull moment since. We got to LA without incident. In fact, I might actually characterize the journey as pleasant. Pheebs was excited to be back in Cali.

We arrived at the museum a bit earlier than expected this morning. The wonderful Sheryl Nakano was there to greet us. She has been instrumental in setting up this internship opportunity, and was so excited to finally have us. We spent most of the morning looking at the collections and talking to Sheryl about her truly incredible work in getting the museum off the ground.

She has been working for about five or six years with twenty years worth of donations that had never been properly catalogued, sorted or preserved. The response from the Chinese community in LA to the museum has been overwhelming, and the sheer volume of donations is daunting. After all these years, she is still plowing through artifacts and documents. We got a chance to look around and see all the work that is cut out for museum interns and employees for years to come. We will be looking at some really awesome scrapbooks from the turn of the century and transcribing some oral history recordings. It will be fantastic.

We got to meet all the museum staff including Suellen Cheng, curator of the El Pueblo Historical Monument (which most people know as Olvera Street and the surrounding plaza area). CAMLA was originally the vision of Suellen and her husband, Munson Kwok. It is still their baby, and this year the museum will turn five years old. We were lucky enough to have luch with Suellen in Olvera Street, and it was fun to pick her brain. Overall, every single museum employee we met seems ecstatic to have us here.

Our digs here in the city are also pretty sweet. We are in an old mansion that has been converted into a hostel, right on the edge of Koreatown. It's ecclectic to say the least. We went to a local gorcery store tonight and stuck out like a couple of sore thumbs. I can't decide what gave us away. Could it have been Phoebe's JCrew fashion tendencies or perhaps the fact we were speaking English to each other? No matter, everybody we've encountered has been friendly and hilarious.

Well, I am tired so I'll just stop here for now. Please pray for Phoebe; she has the black lung.