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

Les Cleverly, formerly of Grand Forks Fire/Rescue, is suing the city as well as current and former city firefighters over alleged workplace bullying and defamation. File photo.
Former Grand Forks firefighter suing department, city over alleged conspiracy, wrongful dismissal

Plaintiff Les Cleverly filed a notice of civil claim with the Supreme Court of BC in last week

The aftermath of Thursday morning’s car crash at Greenwood’s Deadwood Junction, Jan. 14. Photo courtesy of Midway RCMP
Midway RCMP looking driver who left crash outside Greenwood café

Cpl. Phil Peters said Mounties were called to the scene early Thursday morning, Jan. 14

The court will fix a date for sentencing on Feb. 9. File photo
Powell River man pleads guilty to sexual interference of a minor in Grand Forks

The man is awaiting sentencing pending a psychological assessment

The accused entered their pleas at Grand Forks Provincial Court Tuesday, Jan. 12. File photo
Grand Forks men to stand trial for alleged violent crimes last July

The men appeared before Provincial Judge Phillip Seagram at the Grand Forks Court House Tuesday, Jan. 12

Trees destroyed a Shoreacres home during a wind storm Jan. 13, 2021. Photo: Submitted
Shoreacres resident flees just before tree crushes house

Pamala DeRosa is thankful to be alive

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

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)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question during a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Friday, January 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau says Canada’s COVID vaccine plan on track despite Pfizer cutting back deliveries

Canadian officials say country will still likely receive four million doses by the end of March

Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon shared a handwritten note his son received on Jan. 13, 2021. (Ravi Kahlon/Twitter)
Proud dad moment: B.C. minister’s son, 10, receives handwritten note for act of kindness

North Delta MLA took to Twitter to share a letter his son received from a new kid at school

Most Read