TO ensure people can learn more about Chinese Canadians’ contributions to British Columbia, the B.C. government announced on Thursday that it is taking a significant step toward establishing a museum that honours Chinese Canadian history and living heritage.
The B.C. government has invested $10 million to establish the Chinese Canadian Museum – the first in Canada. This investment includes $2 million to complete the planning and development and $8 million for an endowment to provide ongoing support. The museum includes a provincial hub in Vancouver Chinatown, multiple regional hubs and spokes throughout B.C., and an online portal and digital experiences for historical locations throughout the province.
“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.,” said Premier John Horgan. “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 the 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 East Pender Street 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.
The society has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the newly formed Victoria Chinatown Museum Society to be the first regional hub and launch a pocket gallery in Fan Tan Alley with the support of the Royal BC Museum. The pocket gallery is anticipated to open in time for the recognition of Chinese Cultural Heritage Week, July 20-27.
“Now more than ever, we need to come together and learn from each other,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture. “People told us they want a museum to showcase the diversity of Chinese Canadian history and culture, past and present. This museum will help foster a more inclusive society.”
The funding delivers on the B.C. government’s commitment to establish a Chinese Canadian museum. It also reflects the memorandum of understanding signed between the Province and the City of Vancouver to pursue United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site Designation for Vancouver Chinatown and recognizes its global significance as a site of ongoing cultural and historic value. Following a public engagement in 2019, the Province provided a $1-million grant to the City of Vancouver to support planning, including opening a project office and pocket gallery in Vancouver Chinatown.
George Chow, Minister of State for Trade, said: “In reaching this milestone, I’m so thankful of the support and advice from the museum working group, as well as Simon Fraser University’s Wosk Centre for Dialogue. They have been instrumental in making sure this museum is developed in collaboration with the Chinese Canadian community and stakeholders throughout the province.”
Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, added: “For generations Chinese Canadians have faced enormous injustices. Today, we are celebrating positive news as we look forward to a world-class museum that will leave a legacy of hope in Vancouver Chinatown. A living legacy showcasing the hard work, resilience and cultural vibrancy of the Chinese Canadian community.”
Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said: “This museum is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when we work together. The Chinese Canadian Museum is key to our work to seek a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation designation for Vancouver Chinatown. We’re thankful to partner with the B.C. government and the Chinese community on this important project.”
Grace Wong, Chair, Chinese Canadian Museum Society of British Columbia, said: “I am honoured to lead the inaugural board for the Chinese Canadian Museum Society. I know that all the partners have done incredible work to get us to this point, and we look forward to building on that work.”