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Tea with the Chinn FamilySpecial Events :: Community Event
Tea with the Chinn Family
3:00 PM
Mai Wah Museum
The Mai Wah Society will hold a special event unveiling an heirloom tea set, hand-painted dishes, and rare silk-embroidered artwork donated by Joyce Chinn and Yvonne Oliger, descendants of the family who built and resided in the two buildings that now form the Mai Wah Museum. The event is open to both Mai Wah members and the general public.

The tea set and other artifacts date to the early 1900s, when the grandmother of Chinn and Oliger brought them to Butte from China. The teapot is engraved with a famous ancient poem. The hand-painted dishes were first used in the Mai Wah Noodle Parlor, an upscale restaurant in the Mining City’s Chinatown a century ago. The Chinn’s children grew up eating from these dishes.

“I think the point about the artifacts is that there is a direct line from the people who built the building through me to the Mai Wah,” Chinn told the media recently. That personal and historical intersection motivated Chinn and her sister, Oliger, to loan the pieces to the Mai Wah Museum for five years.

“Tea with Chinn Family” will feature tea and snacks served on the second floor of the Mai Wah Museum, which once housed the noodle parlor. There will be a short presentation about the artifacts, in addition to a screening of the recent PBS documentary The Chinese Exclusion Act. The film examines the origin, history, and impact of the 1882 law that made it illegal for Chinese workers to come to America and for Chinese nationals already here to ever become U.S. citizens. Chinn noted that her grandfather and great-grandfather moved to Butte and started their business in the late 1880s even though the Exclusion Act was in place.

“We are so fortunate to have a close relationship with the descendants of the Chinn family,” says Pat Munday, chair of the Mai Wah Society. “This is an incredible opportunity for our community to come together, break bread – or drink tea in this case – and celebrate an important part of our history.”
Age Group: All Ages
Venue: Mai Wah Museum
Address: 17 West Mercury Street Butte, Montana 59703
Phone: 406-723-3231

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