The Centre of Arrivals: Creating a Culturally Democratic Museum for the Twenty-first Century
The South Asian Studies Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley
Building on award-winning community partnership projects such as the Chinese Canadian Legacy Project and Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project (2011–2019), my current research at the Royal BC Museum aims to extend and experiment with practices to co-explore the heritages of the diverse peoples in the province, focusing on immigrant communities that have until recently been underrepresentedᶦ in museums, galleries and academia.
This research supports the kind of paradigm shift recognized by the 2015 UNESCO Recommendationᶦᶦ, which identifies the protection and promotion of cultural diversity as a major 21st-century challenge. Our short-term goals include the co-exploration and preservation of the histories and their complexities with different cultural groups. This work is carried out through consultations, workshops and interviews. The longer-term goal is the transition of interpretive authority from the museum to the communities, refocusing the museum as a space and facilitator for intercultural dialogues, cultural transmission, diverse forms of learning and social cohesion. This work requires ongoing research and innovation to imagine new museum practices.
This ongoing research project informs outputs in the museum work of collections, learning (on-site, off-site and online K-12 educational tools and general public programming), and exhibitions. The completed work can be found at this webpage.
Moving forward, this research project will focus on three major areas:
- Future core gallery development through experimental small-scale prototyping of sharing stories
- Intercultural community history collection, preservation and sharing through community work
- K-12 curriculum learning tools, public educational materials and programming on BC’s tangible and intangible community heritages.
ᶦThe prioritization of underrepresented groups to be worked with is based on the consideration of the following factors (not in the order of importance): 1) the group’s population in BC and Canada; 2) the degree to which BC and Canada’s political and social contexts have informed the group’s collective experiences; 3) the degree to which the group’s self-identified cultural and immigrant history has been absent in heritage institutions in BC and Canada; 4) the degree to which the group is at risk of racial profiling and discrimination in the current national and international contexts; and 5) whether the group decides to work with us after initial communications about preserving and sharing their collective history with our museum and archives. The list of groups to work with is in development as we continue the outreach and consultation with communities and stakeholders. In the present year, the outreach is focused on BC refugee communities who arrived in the 1970s and 1980s.
|With Satwinder Bains. “Punjabi Canadian Legacy Project: Possibilities and Limitations of Institutional Heritagisation from below.” International Journal of Heritage Studies (2019).|
|“Generations: A Case Study of Two British Columbian Families.” In The Language of Family: Stories of Bonds and Belonging, edited by Michelle van der Merwe. (Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 2017), 167–202.|
|“Becoming Canadians, Becoming British Columbians: Chinese Pioneers and Their Legacy.” British Columbia History 50, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 32–36.|
|“Kwong Lee & Company and Early Trans-Pacific Trade: From Canton, Hong Kong, to Victoria and Barkerville.” (Chosen for Canadian History Open Seminar.) BC Studies: The British Columbia Quarterly 185 (Spring 2015): 141–164.|
|“Multicultural Museum Education in and beyond Exhibit: Local and Transnational Synergies from Canada’s Oldest Chinatown.” The International Journal of Museum and Society 13, no. 2 (March 2015): 221–236.|
|“Trans-Pacific Gold Mountain Trade: Traces of Material Culture from British Columbia’s Gold Rush.” In New Perspectives on the Gold Rush, edited by Kathryn Bridge. (Victoria: Royal BC Museum, 2017), 93–107.|
|“Ecological Indigeneity and Global Indigenous Discourse.” In Aspects of Transnational and Indigenous Cultures, edited by Hsinya Huang and Clara Shu-chuan Chang. (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 141–163.|
|“The Transnational Vision of Miss Saigon: Performing the Orient in the Globalized World.” MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States 36, no. 4 (Winter 2011): 61–86.|
|"A Tale of Two Families" - Royal BC Museum Staff Profiles. October 2020|
|“The Punjabi Experience in British Columbia.” Royal BC Museum Learning Portal, July 2016.|
|“Objects and Beyond: Chinese Legacy Initiatives at the Royal British Columbia Museum.” Curious, Royal BC Museum, March 2016.|
|“Early Chinese Canadian Experiences in British Columbia.” Royal British Columbia Museum Online Learning Portal, September 2015.|
|“Acknowledge Past Wrongs.” Royal BC Museum Learning Portal, September 2015.|
|“Chinese Made Big Contribution to Pioneer BC,” Victoria News, February 6, 2015.|
|“Tradition in Felicities: Learning about Communities and Stories.” Royal BC Museum Learning Portal, February 2015.|
|“Early Transpacific Chinese Travelers and Today’s British Columbia.” Curious, Royal BC Museum, December 2014.|
|Food History Project|
|“From Xinhuixian to Quesnel. Review: Liping Wong Yip, From Wah Lee to Chew Keen: The Story of a Pioneer Chinese Family in North Cariboo (Victoria: Friesen Press, 2017).” BC Book World, Winter 2018–19.|
|“From Exclusion to Equals. Review: Great Fortune Dream: The Struggles and Triumphs of Chinese Settlers in Canada, 1858-1966 by David Chuenyan Lai and Ding Guo (Caitlin Press, 2016).” BC Book World, Spring 2017.|