On January 15, 2011, we had an intimate, fruitful, and fun Chinese Canadian Stories community workshop at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC. We began the Saturday afternoon with an introduction from Project Lead, Professor Henry Yu and Project Manager, Denise Fong.
Focussing on the upcoming cIRcle ingest tool that’s to be integrated into the final website, Prof Yu and Denise impressed upon the attendees the importance of their involvement: The cIRcle ingest tool will digitally take in the oral histories, stories, documents, and research of the community into the UBC archives. The genius of the ingest tool is that community members are not only going to have their stories seen by the world on UBC’s website, they (you!) will keep their originals.
So say that you’re a grandparent, or anyone, really, who wants to share your history with your family, and your grandchildren are so far across the globe that they can only visit once every few years. If you upload your story to our website’s ingest tool with photos and words, and maybe even a oral history of yourself (a video), your grandchildren will be able to instantly see your story. Not only that, your story will be accessible to all future generations across the world because your collection will be kept in digital perpetuity. Another great benefit of the ingest tool is that your story will alter the larger fabric of Canadian history because there are really so few Chinese Canadian stories: Most of the stories that we have at the moment paint only a partial picture of Chinese Canadian experiences.
And, I’d just like to briefly talk about what Chinese Canadian on this site means. This term includes people whose families have been in Canada for generations, to people who have paid the head tax, to people who have passed through Canada and called this country home for a few years, to people of partial Chinese heritage, and to even the most newly arrived migrants. Essentially, “Chinese Canadian” is an incredibly diverse category composed of many different people with a wide range of stories and experiences.
The workshop underscored this diversity as the 9 people who attended the workshop covered a range of ages, ethnicities, backgrounds and professions. For example, we had Professor Emerti, writers, PhD students, and even just people who were interested in Chinese Canadian history and their own family stories.
The absolute highlight of this workshop was the sharing of family histories and the research and work that the attendees had carried out. At certain moments, we were incredibly moved with stories about journeys of personal discovery. What touched me the most was one participant’s wish to dig deeper into his roots to feel closer to his family: He hopes to pass on the stories that he’s collected because he is the last family member of his generation. By getting in touch with Chinese Canadian Stories, the stories of the people he personally knew, like his father, mother, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, will not disappear.
This workshop was also successful, because through conversations with our attendees, we unearthed connections and stories about Cumberland, BC, the benefits of musical groups to stave off gambling in the early years of Chinese migration to Canada, and W.A.C. Bennett, the premier of British Columbia from 1952-72. We never expected to discover so much at our workshop, but really, it’s just plain wonderful that the workshop really exceeded our expectations! It’s truly the stories and relationships that people share with each other that give colour to history. I’m so glad that people are willing to share their stories.
To cap off the day, the attendees took a tour of the Chung Collection (http://chung.library.ubc.ca/), which houses over 25,000 rare and unique items. I’ve been there myself, and if you ever have the opportunity to take a look at the collection while you’re at UBC, you should because the physicality of its posters, paintings, models, dinnerware, and more, bring history to life.