“The Chinese in the Sierra Nevada” Student-Proposed Museum Exhibit

  • Sophia An
  • Esther Lian
  • Natalie Chuang
  • Hannah Hamawi
  • Russell Tsai

First, the students researched the topic online

Then they conducted research beyond the internet

Then they organized their exhibit

  • The Chinese in America Prior to 1848
  • The Chinese Miner (1848–1883)
  • The Chinese Laundry Business Worker (1851–1883)
  • The Chinese Railroad Worker (1865–1883)
  • The Chinese Lumbermen (1865–1883)
  • The Chinese Ice Harvesting Laborer (1868–1883)
  • The Chinese Tioga Pass Road Builder (1883)
  • The Chinese in the Sierra Nevada After the Passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882–1943)

Then they produced a video

Then they produced a mock-up

Then they ran out of time

  1. See Tunnels #6 and #8 for themselves.
  2. Visit the Museum of the Sierra
  3. Visit the Truckee Historical Museum.
  4. Visit the Gold Rush Museum
  5. Visit the California History Museum
  6. Meet with Gordon H. Chang, Stanford history professor and author of Ghosts of Gold Mountain
  7. Meet with Russ Low, physician, book author, and great grandson of Hung Lai Wah (mentioned throughout the book Ghosts of Gold Mountain and on page one in particular)
  8. Meet with Phil Sexton, executive director of the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society,
  9. Meet with ??? executive director of the 1882 Foundation (seeking to facilitate a new National Historic Landmark at Donner Pass)
  10. Meet with Jerry Blackwell, keeper of the Truckee area railroad history
  11. Meet with Lisa See, American writer and novelist
  12. Read Eugene Itogowa’s book, The Natural Ice Industry in California.
  13. Read Gordon Chang’s book, The Ghosts of Gold Mountain
  14. Read Russ Low’s book, The Three Coins
  15. Write a no-more-than-five-page research paper addressing each of their proposed exhibit’s seven topics; then turn each paper into a 2–4 minute video designed for viewing on one of their exhibit walls.
  16. Produce several other mock-ups.
  17. Pitch their proposed exhibit to a real-world audience, with that audience hopefully consisting of one or more representatives of the Museum of the Sierra. Maybe also one or more representatives of the California History Museum (located in Sacramento.)

Sidenote #1

Sidenote #2

Sidenote #3

Sidenote #4

Hung Wah Outside Summit Tunnel #8 (8x8, oil painting)

Sidenote #5

Produced in 2021 by Ethan Mo, Jaylin Hsu, Ben Guo, and Wesley Hung

Sidenote #6

Sidenote #7

Top Tier Research Topics

  • Guangdong in the mid to late 1800s
  • The Journey to the Sierras
  • The Chinese in America Prior to 1848
  • The Chinese Gold Rush Miner (1848–1855)
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Hand Laundry Worker
  • The Chinese Transcontinental Railroad Worker
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Lumberman
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Ice Harvester
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Road Builder
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Cigar Maker
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Charcoal Maker
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Treatment of Common Sierra Nevada Illnesses and Injuries
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese after the Passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Brush maker
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Broom Maker
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Candle Maker
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Soap Maker
  • The Sierra Nevada Chinese Cook
  • The Cigar Box Guitar and the Chinese Laborer
  • The Truckee Method
  • The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

Top Tier Research Questions

  • What did the Chinese do after the California surface gold ran out?
  • What did the Chinese do after the completion of the transcontinental railroad?
  • How did the Chinese Sierra Nevada entertain themselves?
  • What did the Chinese Sierra Nevada eat?
  • How did the Chinese Sierra Nevada treat their injuries and illnesses?
  • To what extent did the Chinese Sierra Nevada work in the ice harvesting industry?
  • To what extent did the Chinese Sierra Nevada learn to make and play the cigar box guitar?
  • To what extent did the Chinese Sierra Nevada write poetry?
  • How many Chinese lived/worked in the Sierra Nevada between 1848–1900
  • What should be done today to commemorate the work of the Chinese Sierra Nevada?

Top Tier Tasks

  • Write a research paper (traditional or modern, long or short, in-house, Concord Review, or for the internet)
  • Meet with and learn from an expert
  • Read a book
  • Visit/tour/see for yourself
  • Produce a work of art (painting, song, poem, etc)
  • Produce a mock-up
  • Produce a video (TED-Ed, Reading Through History, Tom Richey, whiteboard animated, stop-gap animated, etc.)
  • Engage in civic action (take a stand, become a force for change)
  • Produce a timeline

Books to Read

  • Eugene M. Itogawa’s Book, Natural Ice Industry in California
  • Joseph C. Jones’ book, America’s Iceman
  • Gordon Chang’s book, Ghosts of Gold Mountain
  • Lawrence Yep’s book, The Journal of Wong Ming-Chung
  • Mae M. Ngai’’s book, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics
  • Gene Luen Yang’s book, American Born Chinese
  • Erika Lee’s book At America’s Gate, Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882, 1943
  • Sue Fawn Chung’s book In Pursuit of Gold: Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West
  • C Pam Zhang’s book, How Much of These Hills Is Gold
  • Robert Kelle’s book, Battling the Inland Sea

Artwork to Produce

  • A painting? (Hung Wah contemplating his future in the days before the 1869 Golden Spike Ceremony)
  • Another painting (Unknown Chinese Gold Miner contemplating his future in 1855 as surface gold has disappeared and individual prospecting has come to an end.)
  • A work of historical fiction (chapter of a book entitled Hung Wah?)
  • A song
  • A poem



High school APUSH teacher with much in-class and online teaching experience. Also a blogger, keynote speaker, editor, podcast host, and conference presenter.

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