New museum to tell story of Chinese Canadians in B.C.

Main museum will be in Vancouver’s Chinatown, with multiple hubs throughout B.C., possibly including Kamloops.

The provincial government is spending $10 million to establish the Chinese Canadian Museum, the first of its kind in Canada.

In addition to the main museum to be established in Vancouver’s Chinatown, there will be multiple regional hubs throughout B.C. and an online portal and digital experiences for historical locations throughout the province.

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A spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism told KTW the locations of those hubs will be revealed later this year, noting a working group is reviewing possible sites.

It is not known if Kamloops will be home to a museum hub, though it was one of a handful of B.C. cities included in a series of consultation meetings in 2019 with Chinese communities across the province to collect input on the proposed museum. In January 2019, provincial officials travelled to Kamloops to meet with about 40 local residents to collect input on what they would like to see in a Chinese Canadian museum. Participants expressed their thoughts on how the museum should operate, what it should look like and what content it should house.

Roundtable discussions produced a variety of recommendations to the province, including that the museum should appeal to youth and integrate with schools, interactive features be prominently featured and stories of those like First World War veteran Freddy Lee and former Kamloops mayor Peter Wing — believed to have been the first mayor of Chinese descent in North America when he was elected to the first of three terms in 1966 — be recorded and shared.

Joe Leong, former Kamloops city councillor and past president of the Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association, brought some of those issues to light at that 2019 meeting and is trying to make sure the stories of Kamloops’ Chinese community are told.

“I just want to make sure the museum is built to recognize Kamloops and the long Chinese history here and that everyone is involved with it,” he told KTW at the time. “It’s not just Chinese history, it’s the history of Kamloops and its citizens.”

Of the five consultations conducted in 2019, Kamloops’ session was the only one in the Interior, with the other sessions taking place in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island.

Kamloops is a significant site in the Interior because of the number of Chinese railroad workers who remained following the completion of the Kamloops-Yale rail line. Many of those workers settled as part of the city's early Chinatown and were later buried in the Chinese cemetery.

The $10-million commitment from the provincial government includes $2 million to complete the planning and development and $8 million for an endowment to provide ongoing support.

"We've been working closely with the community for years and it has told us how important this museum is for everyone in B.C.," Premier John Horgan said. "We are at a critical point when it comes to conversations about race, inequality and injustice in this province. Now is the time to come together to share the stories about how our province got to where it is — and to have conversations about where we want it to go."

The newly formed, independent, non-profit Chinese Canadian Museum Society of British Columbia will lead development and operate the museum. The inaugural board has 20 members with a range of expertise, skills and experience and includes representatives from both the provincial government and the City of Vancouver. Grace Wong, former senior advisor international, University of British Columbia Office of Provost and Vice-President Academic, is the chair of the society.

To kick off the museum experience, the Chinese Canadian Museum Society is launching a temporary exhibit in Vancouver Chinatown at 27 E Pender St. in August. A Seat at the Table explores the history of Chinese immigration and how the communities were able to stay vibrant and resilient through the food and restaurant culture they brought to British Columbia. The exhibit is a partnership with the City of Vancouver, University of British Columbia and Museum of Vancouver.

Find out more about the Chinese Canadian Museum at https://engage.gov.bc.ca/chinesecanadianmuseum/.

 

© Kamloops This Week

 


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