In the fall of 2014, John Price, Professor of History at the University of Victoria invited museum and archives staff from around Vancouver Island’s small and mid-size museums to share information about the Asian-related archival material in their collections at a special workshop held in November of that year. It was an exciting and welcomed opportunity for museum professionals to not only provide a brief verbal report of their institutions’ holdings on this subject but also to share selected stories and images with a group of colleagues and community stakeholders. It was remarkable to learn of the depth of their collections and to hear profoundly moving stories about these communities. The workshop revealed a potential gold mine of information on the subject of Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island, including those of South Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Pacific Islander (Kanaka) heritage.
The purpose of the project is to (re)conceptualize Asian Canadian history on Vancouver Island, with specific focus on ties with First Nations, and the transpacific. It will look at historical relationships among settler communities, their relations with First Nations, and also draw attention to allies who, in standing up for the rights of the marginalized, were harbingers of Canada’s multicultural future. The project’s goals include the establishment of a new research collection on Asian Canadian history; the writing of two books based on this collection; the construction of a digital history website housing the stories and related inventories from local archives and museums; a learning resource for history instructors; and the mounting of Asian Canadian exhibits in local museums.
Prof. Price explained the significance and impact of this project: “The outcomes envisaged will be an academic first as there exists no history of Asian Canadians on Vancouver Island to date. In highlighting this history, this project will help overcome the negative legacy of colonialism in B.C. and Canada. Making widely available these communities’ own stories, and their interactions with First Nations, will help to build social solidarity. Asian and Asian Canadian tourism is increasingly important for local communities and the project will enhance the capacity of these museums to fulfill their mandates by making available materials (some in Asian languages) directly relevant to these visitors.”