Sweet and Sour Initiative

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History seeks to further increase and improve its Chinese American history and culture collections by obtaining objects that document the story of Chinese restaurants and food in America. The development and eventual ubiquity of Chinese restaurants in America mirrors the long history of Chinese immigration, exclusion, exoticism and perseverance.

We seek actual objects from or closely related to Chinese restaurants.

These objects should range from the earliest Chinese “chow chows” to the latest corner take out and be from across length and breadth of the country. Ideas for collections include:
  • Menus (take-out and sit-down), other paraphernalia showing a specific restaurants take on Chinese food, logoed carry-out containers, chop sticks, matchbooks, etc.
  • Pictures of life in a Chinese restaurant: families at work, the store front, celebrations, opening day, etc.
  • Restaurant signs: older names, ones including chop suey, neon, plastic, or chopstick font.
  • Advertisements: local ads for discounts, want ads for staff, if possible TV ads also.
  • Ownership papers, early ledgers with sales/purchases, catalogs for purchase of equipment and supplies.
  • Working papers, permits.
  • Home cooking: objects that show the influence of Chinese restaurants, cooking, and food in the household; woks from Wal-mart, early cookbooks, etc.
At Tasty with the owner Mrs. Lui Tasty Chop Suey

For additional information, please visit the Sweet and Sour blog series on the National Museum of American History’s blog.

Flyers with more information in Traditional and Simplified Chinese:
Download Simplified Chinese Flyer (.pdf)
Download Traditional Chinese Flyer (.pdf)

For more information on donating objects or participating in the collecting project please contact:

Cedric Yeh Chair, Asian Pacific American Initiatives
Committee Deputy Chair, Division of Armed Forces History
National Museum of American History
Email: yehc@si.edu
Office: 202-633-3423
Fax: 202-357-3395

Thank you for your interest and support of the national collections.