History Fair is a big success for Chinese Canadian Historical Society
My mother Betty Wong and me with pictures from the Rev. Chan family archives.
The History Fair put on at the Vancouver Museum on Saturday January 22, 2005 by The Chinese Canadian Historical Society
was a great success. The Joyce Whalley room was packed with
displays and visitors. I was almost constantly answering
questions or explaining about my two displays: Rev. Chan Legacy Project and Gung Haggis Fat Choy: the 2005 dinner event.
The formal welcomes took place with Dr. Edgar Wickberg welcoming
everybody. He very peceptively told the audience that while we as
a society know a lot of how the mainstream community reacted to or
against the Chinese community, we don't know a lot about how the
Chinese community thought about these same situations, or what went on
in the families and the community. Dr. Wickberg emphasized that
is is very important right now to take stock of what we do have, so
that we can move forward in including Chinese Canadian history within
the larger context of Canadian history. He explained that BC is often
the last end note in Canadian history.
I had four poster cards filled with pictures of the families of Rev.
Chan Sing Kai and Rev. Chan Yu Tan on display, standing upright –
while other poster cards were flat on the table including the Chinese
ancestral family tree written by Rev. Chan Yu Tan in 1924, and the 2000
Rev. Chan Yu Tan family tree of descendents. These posters
displayed picture of Rev. Chan Sing Kai soon after he first arrived in
Canada in 1888 and soon after wearing “European costume.”
Pictures also included Rev. Chan Yu Tan's 50th wedding anniversary
picture with his wife. The most recent pictures were from the
1999 Rev. Chan Clan Family and featured pictures of each of the
attending generations from my Grandmother's 3rd generation with her
brothers, sisters and cousins to the 7th generation featuring my cousin
Lisa's two granddaughters who are both only 1/4 Chinese now.
Marisa Alps visiting me at my Rev. Chan Legacy display.
The display attracted lots of attention from attendees. Some
had attended the Chinese United Church as they grew up in
Chinatown. Some recognized friends in the pictures. Some were
inspired and wanted to research their own famility histories and family
trees. Some people had heard me on CBC Radio being interviewed by Sheryl MacKay for her North By Northwest CBC radio show.
My parents came down and brought my 94 year old grandmother to see the
show. Sing Tao Newspaper photographer Richard Li took a picture
of us with pictures of us with the Rev. Chan Legacy display.
Channel M also had a television camera shooting picutres
too. Filmaker Nettie Wild had some good conversations with
myself and my mother regarding the lives of our ancestors 100 years
ago, as Nettie is researching stories for her next project.
Gung Haggis Fat Choy™ was my other display.
I displayed posters for the 2005 dinner event, the SFU GHFC Canadian
Games and the 2004 CBC television special. As well, I displayed
past newsclippings and one of the first pictures ever taken of me in a
kilt in 1993, by SFU media photographer Marianne Meadhal. Many
people came by had heard me on CBC radio, saw me on The National with
Peter Mansbridge or saw the CBC tv special Gung Haggis Fat Choy.
They all enjoyed the concept of a combined Robbie Burns Chinese New
Year Dinner, as I explained that I was partly inspired by my Chan
Family's 6th and 7th generations who are now only 1/2 or 1/4 Chinese
and will need to find inclusive expressions to express their dual or
multi-ethnic hybrid culture and ancestry.
“I think you've identified Vancouver's 'Two Solitudes',” Vancouver
Museum's history curator Joan Seidl told me. We joked about how
in BC, the influencing forces were Scottish and Chinese as opposed to
English and French. While the Scots were on top and the Chinese
on bottom, Vancouver's history is filled with stories of both
interaction and non-interaction between these groups.
The history fair had a wonderful atmosphere of comraderie as friends
greeted each other, of discovery as old friends reunited, and of
importance as insights were made. The following is a list of the
presenters and my comments.
Strathcona House Genealogy
– James Johnstone had a picture of my grandmother's old house and a
list of the houses' genealogy of occupents. He talked with both
my mother and grandmother about the house.
Chinese Family Laundry & Enping County
– Elwin Xie and his partner Fanna brought together pictures and
artifacts for this cool display. Elwin is also a friend and an
ACWW board member.
Chinese in Guyana – Trev
Sue-a-Quan had copies of his two books about the Chinese in Guyana and
his own family stories. Trev is also a poet and a friend through
Multicultural Canada is
a Simon Fraser University project that is creating “…a freely
and highly accessible and visible cultural heritage portal online.”
Historical Cartoons – Patricia Roy had her book and collections of cartoons detailing the clashes and atteitudes about the Chinese
Won Alexander Cumyow – Janet
Nicol had been reseaching the life of the first Chinese born in
Canada. Cumyow married the daughter of Rev. Chan Sing Kai – and
just discovered that “Eva” was actually an adopted daughter
Historica – Shannon Steele will be putting together an educational fair for youth about their place in history
Canadians for Redress –
Sid Tan, Linda Jang and Sean Gunn all had a great display on Head tax
redress with lots of copies of Shared Vision which featured them on the
cover and in the story Settling the Score
Chinese Stoneware Record – Trelle Morrow
WWII Veterans & Chinese Cemeteries – Judy Maxwell worked on a research paper about the veterans and a wonderful display was provided by the Chinese Canadian Military Museum
WWII Chinese Canadian Female Aviators
– Patti Gully featured pictures and stories about young attractive
Chinese woman who helped lead the war effort promotion.
Chinese Burial Practices – Laura Pasacreta
Chinese Artifacts from Salt Spring Island – Chris Hatfield has found many many pottery pieces and shards on his Saltspring Island farm.
Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society – Don Montgomery, executive director shared his table with Rice Paper Magazine
Yan Family Tree – May Yan-Mountain
Lau/She Family Tree – Jennifer Lau
Kamloops Chinese Cultural Association – Heroes of Confederation Museum Project
Chinese in Kamloops & Railway Workers – Joanna Maxwell
Chinese Opera Costumes – Elizabeth Johnson brought together a display from the Museum of Anthropology where she is curator.