Untouched for nearly 20 years, items in the building help tell a story of a life that disappeared over 70 years ago. Stories of the Chinese and why they came over, how they lived, what they endured, and how we can learn from them are preserved here at Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site.
There are really three types of collection at Kam Wah Chung. There is the artifact collection, holding individual items that tell a story of themselves and how they fit into the larger story of Chinese life in John Day, Oregon. The archive collection, made up of documents and other written and printed materials, holds vast amounts of information about individuals, accounts, day-to-day dealings, and how Kam Wah Chung interacted with local, state, and worldwide communities. Kam Wah Chung & Co. building is its own collection. Not only does it hold the other two collections, but the building itself is a collection of stories, even before the Chinese used or owned it.
About half of the materials found in the Kam Wah Chung building are stored in the onsite curation facility. The facility is a separate building located behind the interpretive center. On special occasions, limited tours are given of the facility. Some items curated there include the archives, sensitive textiles including clothing, partially used herbal packages, and perishable organics.
If you would like to conduct research of our collections, please contact Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site at 541-575-2800 and ask for the museum curator at least three weeks before you wish to start the research. Appointments are necessary due to staffing and volunteer scheduling. Weekend onsite research is extremely limited and, in many cases, not feasible. Documents are not searchable online. We are currently in the process of developing a searchable database that can be sent via email which we only just begun. If you request a copy of the searchable database, be advised it only covers a fraction of the collection. It may be several years before we have a fully functioning searchable database. We also have most of our collection in a Past Perfect database. Researchers are allowed to view the database onsite. The database is not available online at this time, but we have plans of adding it in the future. The best time of year to conduct research at Kam Wah Chung is November through April.