Alma Igra discusses her internship with the Museum of Food and Drink where she worked on their exhibit, CHOW: Making the Chinese American Food
I started my work at Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn at September. I worked research for their exhibition CHOW: Making the Chinese American Food. CHOW presents the history of Chinese-American food, from the Gold Rash times to the present, and brings together immigration, community histories, and culinary history. My research included three main fields: post 1960s immigration; the history of Chinatown in NYC; and culinary history, utilizing sources like old cookbooks and comparing the shifts in Chinese food cooked and eaten in America. Most of my work was based on secondary sources and readings, but I was also able to use some primary sources using databases and Columbia Library. My Ph.D. training enabled me to summarize and review many different academic articles and books quickly and share my notes with my supervisor. I used methods of effective reading to go through the material and find the answers to specific questions we had about the history of different Chinses-American communities, their community organizations and their relation to the food industry.
Working at MOFAD introduced me to the processes of work at a museum, and how research questions are processed into the exhibition narrative. Since the texts are usually short (much shorter than the average academic essay) I had to learn how to edit me research conclusions and explain them in a concise manner. The exhibition narrative and the texts presented next to the objects are co-authored by several different types of research and workers in the staff, and I also enjoyed reading the different drafts and seeing how this type of collective work is done. Although I joined the writing and research team very later in the process, I was fortunate to share my findings with the staff and contribute to the narrative.
The exhibition opened last week, and now I started working on other little research projects, as part of their planning for future exhibitions.