The name of the former Kuo Kong Silk business that occupied the space is seen in tile outside the Chinese Canadian Museum of British Columbia’s first exhibit, “A Seat at the Table” in Chinatown in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

The name of the former Kuo Kong Silk business that occupied the space is seen in tile outside the Chinese Canadian Museum of British Columbia’s first exhibit, “A Seat at the Table” in Chinatown in Vancouver, B.C., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Chinese Canadian Museum of B.C. opens first exhibit in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Co-curator Viviane Gosselin says the exhibition was two years in the making

A giant, intricate dragon mask and a hand-painted wok greet visitors to the first-ever exhibition of the Chinese Canadian Museum of British Columbia in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

The exhibition, called A Seat at the Table, explores historical and contemporary experiences of Chinese Canadians, particularly through the lens of food and restaurants.

“A close look at the food industry reveals the impact of racial discrimination on Chinese Canadians, but it also tells us much about their ability to resist, organize, seek justice and thrive,” reads the museum’s description of the exhibition that opens Saturday.

In one installation, the story of a campaign to save barbecue meat stores in Chinatown in the mid-1970s is told through delicate, miniature paper cut-outs of the storefronts and their supporters, as a spotlight casts their shadows high up on the wall.

Co-curator Viviane Gosselin said the exhibition was two years in the making and involved historians, educators, students, community activists and staff at the Museum of Vancouver, who collected a wide range of personal stories and items of significance from members of the Chinese Canadian community in B.C.

Their goal was to highlight the diversity of Chinese Canadian experiences and create a space where people feel comfortable sharing their own stories, she said.

“All the clusters of images and videos and artifacts are there to act as prompts for people to kind of trigger their memory,” said Gosselin, the director of collections and exhibitions at the Museum of Vancouver, which is partnered with the Chinese Canadian Museum of B.C.

A Seat at the Table includes stations for writing and recording videos, as well as a large map where visitors can illustrate where they have come from, she said.

“The whole idea is to kind of generate a new body of historical knowledge that the Chinese Canadian Museum can use for future research and programming,” said Gosselin.

Grace Wong, the chair of the society that’s working to fully establish the Chinese Canadian Museum, said the exhibition recognizes the contributions of Chinese Canadians across B.C.

“Everything from the 1880s — all the struggles, all the contributions, all of the work, whether it was building the railway, whether it was contributing in the world wars, despite not having any status.”

A Seat at the Table opens amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the Vancouver Police Department has reported that incidents of racism directed at Asian people are on the rise.

Co-curator Denise Fong wore a face mask printed with the phrase “stop the spread of racism” while touring the exhibition this week, saying she hopes the exhibition will spur conversations about how people can make change in their day to day lives.

A Seat at the Table is presented in English as well as traditional and simplified Chinese, Fong noted.

A so-called sister exhibition is set to open at the Museum of Vancouver’s main location in the fall.

Both exhibitions are expected to travel across B.C. within a year, said Gosselin, noting they’re designed to incorporate fresh content each time they open in a new location.

The B.C. government announced an investment of $10 million to establish the Chinese Canadian Museum last month, calling it the first museum of its kind in Canada.

It also gave the City of Vancouver $1 million last year to support the establishment of the museum with satellite locations planned in other communities, as well as an online portal offering interactive experiences at historical locations across the province.

The museum is part of a joint effort by the province and Vancouver to have the city’s Chinatown designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

ChinaVancouver

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The regional jobs picture has improved. (Innovate Impact Media/Creative Commons photo)
Northwest unemployment rate dips again

Is now second lowest of any region in B.C.

Cedar Valley Lodge, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the LNG Canada Project site in Kitimat. The most recent outbreak among workers at the project site was just declared over. (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Second COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site declared over

The outbreak was first declared on Dec. 16, 2020

The first of two massive turbines headed from Prince Rupert for the Site C Dam near Fort St. John on Jan 10. (Photo: Supplied by Tasha McKenzie)
Massive turbines begin trek across Northwestern B.C.

Turbines headed from Prince Rupert to Site C Dam to cause traffic delays week of Jan. 10 to 14

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)

Most Read