Without history museums, the study of the past would be relegated to musty shoe-box dioramas and the Internet's teeming archive of cat videos. Browse cultural history with today's Groupon: for $30, you get a one-year contributing membership to the Chinese Historical Society of America, located on Clay Street in Chinatown, plus a copy of The Architecture of San Francisco Chinatown (a $108 total value).
Founded in 1963, the Chinese Historical Society houses a remarkable array of cultural and historical artifacts, providing Chinese-Americans, Chinaphiles, and generally hungry-brained humans an opportunity to explore a rich cultural legacy. A year-long contributing membership to the society nets unlimited admission to the museum for up to two adults and two children and/or grandchildren, two additional guest passes, a 10% discount at the museum bookstore, a subscription to the Bulletin newsletter, the ability to fly through spread toes, and invitations to members-only events (a $100 value). Groupon buyers also receive a one-issue copy of Philip Choy's The Architecture of San Francisco Chinatown, a social history of the region as informed by its most artistically rich buildings and public spaces (an $8 value).
The museum's collection includes enlightening heirlooms such as Frank Wong's miniature Chinatown scenes and James Leong's mural of regional Chinese-American history. Finding Jake Lee (opening Saturday, February 12) is among the fresh-faced exhibits, providing an overview of the titular water-colorer's region-focused imagery. The museum's Julia Morgan-designed building is itself a work of historic merit, blending Chinese and Western elements into an aesthetically pleasing casing, like a smoothie served in a Waterford crystal vase.
- Since the 1840s, this community has survived riots, discrimination, fires, bootlegging gangsters and politicians' attempts to relocate it down the coast - the amazing-but-true story unfolds before your eyes at the landmark Chinese Historical Society of America Museum. – Lonely Planet
- Really enjoyed finding this museum. – L K., Yelp, 11/23/10
Chinese Historical Society of America
Since 1963, the Chinese Historical Society of America has collected the documents and artifacts that chronicle the history of Chinese American citizens. The society's permanent collections are typified by pieces such as One Hundred Years’ History of the Chinese in America, a vivid mural by Chinatown native James Leong that charts the progress of Chinese Americans over the course of 100 years. On a smaller scale, the Chinatown Miniatures Collection depicts three-dimensional scenes of San Francisco's Chinatown as it looked before artist Frank Wong built his shrink ray. Other exhibits change frequently, often in conjunction with special events hosted for members and their guests.
The museum can't contain every bit of Chinese American history, however. With that in mind, the society’s guides lead school groups on walking tours through the bustling streets and alleyways of San Francisco's Chinatown. Free from the confines of the museum, they point out the neighborhood’s distinct architectural landmarks and underlying social significance. Throughout the year, the museum also puts out publications such as the CHSA Bulletin, which chronicles different stories within the Chinese American community.