On February 1st, our class visited San Jose. Our first stop was the Fairmont Hotel downtown. The Market Street Chinatown covered multiple blocks downtown, but the part of the collection we are currently working with in this class came from the block where the Fairmont Hotel stands today. At the site we saw two signs marking the former site of the Market Street Chinatown and the fire that destroyed it. Walking around the hotel, we were excited to see how much of the plan of the Chinatown still exists at the site: several of the surrounding streets retain their original names, and with the help of a nineteenth-century insurance map we were able to begin to envision the layout of the Market Street Chinatown. Our visit also impressed upon us how central the Market Street Chinatown’s location was in nineteenth-century San Jose. This was not a hidden community, but was in the middle of the city.
We next visited History San Jose, where Sarah Pluckitt and Paula Jabloner led us on a tour of the facility. We saw the collections storage units where this collection will ultimately be curated. Once the Market Street Chinatown archaeological collection is fully cataloged, it will join History San Jose’s extensive collections documenting the history of the Santa Clara Valley, and will be available for researchers to study. After touring these facilities, we met Anita Kwock and Lillian Gong-Guy of the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project at the Ng Shing Gung temple museum in the History Park of San Jose. They kindly took the time on the first day of the Chinese New Year to guide us through the exhibits at the museum, and also answered some questions we had about the history of San Jose’s Chinese community. These experiences really helped to bring the collection to life! After experiencing so much hospitality, we are happy to welcome visitors to our open house on February 8th!
Artifact of the Week
This week our classroom instruction focused on the processing of glass artifacts. The study of glass can often yield a great deal of information about consumption and economic activities. Because it is often broken or discarded after its contents are used, glass is often quite useful in determining the date of an archaeological deposit. Among the glass artifacts from the Market Street Chinatown collection are several medicinal bottles and vials, such as those shown here. The smaller vials are often found associated with overseas Chinese sites, and contained a variety of medicinal compounds. According to its embossed label, the larger bottle in this picture contained medicines from a local San Jose druggist named R. E. Collins. The presence of both types of bottles in this collection are another indication of the way that life in the Market Street Chinatown incorporated both traditional Chinese practices and also practices of the larger San Jose community.