The collection of Chinese history at the Nanaimo museum is going digital.
The first-ever online inventory of Chinese Canadian artifacts and historical records in B.C was announced last week as a “milestone” by the B.C. Ministry of International Trade.
The Chinese Canadian Artifacts Inventory Project, piloted by the Nanaimo Museum, is aimed at opening up collections of B.C museums in a keystroke and bringing the cultural history of Chinese Canadians to the forefront. It’s a multi-partner initiative led by the University of Victoria and will see a $75,000 investment by the provincial government.
It follows last year’s formal apology on behalf of B.C. legislative assembly members to Chinese Canadians for historical wrongs committed by past provincial governments.
Aimee Greenaway, Nanaimo Museum interpretation curator, says it will be more than just an artifact listing.
People will be able to see pieces of Nanaimo’s collection and the stories behind them, whether it’s the 90-drawer apothecary chest used by a drugstore owner in Nanaimo’s Chinatown or the Nanaimo General Hospital pin worn by the province’s first Chinese Canadian registered nurse.
“A lot of people are aware of Chinese history in British Columbia or in their community, but to be able to go in and look at the artifacts really makes the history that much more interesting,” Greenaway said. “You can actually see the things that people used and that people, in some cases, imported from China or things that they made while [they were] here.”
With only 10 per cent of a museum’s artifacts on display at any given time, she says it’s also a way for artifacts spending time in storage to be accessible to the public and will allow museums no matter how remote to show what they have to anyone in the world with Internet access.
The team of museum curators and historians will make a ‘treasure chest’ of artifacts accessible to the public that highlight the historic role of the Chinese throughout the province, their resilience in the face of systemic racism and continuing ties established in China, according to John Price, project leader with the University of Victoria department of history.
“There’s a history of racism in this province and that racism has had an effect on not making Chinese Canadian contributions to the province prominent,” he said.
The project will be completed this fall.