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UBC Public Affairs: UBC gains $900,000 federal award for unique Chinese Canadian history web portal

Strathcona Elementary School kindergarten class portrait (all photo credits: University of British Columbia Library, Chung Collection)

UBC Public Affairs

Media Release | Aug. 9, 2010

A bilingual website featuring the legacies of Chinese Canadians who helped shape this country will soon be a reality thanks to an ambitious project led by the University of British Columbia and a $900,000 grant from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP).

The CHRP award was announced today by Alice Wong, Parliamentary Secretary of Multiculturalism, during a visit to UBC’s Vancouver campus to mark the beginning of a workshop for CHRP grant holders across the country. From August 10-13, workshop participants will discuss resources and strategies for collecting and preserving historical legacies, as well as ways to improve their respective projects through collaboration.

The web portal, called Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Stories from a Common Past History, will launch in 2012 and provide a one-of-a-kind bilingual site with English and Chinese resources for students, researchers and others wanting to learn more about the oft-ignored Chinese experience in Canada.

The initiative includes other important innovations such as an online virtual experience, portable interactive kiosks and a searchable database of digital material created by CHRP-funded partner organizations.

Chinese Hospital Clinic

“Through this project, we will ensure that all Canadians, now and into the future, have access to the work of those organizations that have completed historical recognition projects,” said Stephen Owen, UBC’s Vice President External, Legal and Community Relations. “We welcome the support of the Government of Canada toward UBC’s goals of promoting intercultural understanding and expanding knowledge through new technologies.”

“Chinese migrants came to what is now British Columbia over two centuries ago, engaging with First Nations peoples at the same moment that the first migrants from Europe arrived,” said Henry Yu, project lead and associate professor in the Dept. of History. “In other words, long before Confederation, the Chinese were part of the founding peoples of what would become Canada. This project will reshape the way all of us understand Canada, and reclaim the forgotten histories of peoples who have long been ignored in Canadian history.”

“This project stands out for its community engagement and its collaborative nature,” said Ingrid Parent, UBC’s University Librarian. “UBC Library is grateful for the CHRP funding, and proud to help lead this ambitious and necessary effort to assist researchers and students of all ages in discovering the valuable contributions of the Chinese Canadian community to our country and our culture.”

Chinese Free Masons, Kelowna, B.C.

The UBC-led project emphasizes connecting younger generations to the stories of earlier generations. UBC undergraduate students will help collect, interpret and assemble materials for school programs. It follows an earlier CHRP-funded project that involved UBC students interviewing Chinese Canadian elders about their experiences during the times of the restrictive Chinese Head Tax and Chinese Immigration Act.

“Already, we have seen the life-changing transformations that can occur when a student conducts an oral history interview with one of their grandparents or an elder in their family,” said Yu. “They come to understand who they are in a whole new way, and often appreciate the sacrifices and struggles of those who came before them.”

Vegetable peddlers

Other project highlights include a digital archive that preserves material from partner organizations; portable kiosks that will appear in cities including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Kamloops; and promotion of the website and digital materials for Grade 5-12 students. The site will also feature the Chinese Head Tax Register, a digital database developed at UBC that includes more than 96,000 records.

This collaborative project features a host of on- and off-campus partners, including Simon Fraser University, UBC Library units – including the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections, cIRcle (UBC’s digital repository) and the Asian Library – as well as the Department of History, the Initiative for Student Teaching and Research in Chinese-Canadian Studies (INSTRCC), the Critical Thinking Consortium, the the Masters of Digital Media Program at Great Northern Way Campus and the Learning Exchange. Meanwhile, the Faculty of Applied Science, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the Museum of Anthropology and the Faculty of Arts will be involved in mobile interactive kiosk design.

For more information and sample materials, visit www.chinesecanadian.ubc.ca.

BACKGROUND | AUGUST 9, 2010
Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Stories from a Common Past

The Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Histories from a Common Past web portal is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary project led by the University of British Columbia. Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s Community Historical Recognition Program (CHRP), the project will serve as a valuable mechanism of communication and collaboration between UBC, Simon Fraser University and community partners.

For more than 200 years, migrants of Chinese heritage have traveled to Canada to live, to work, and to raise their families. Many have called a variety of places home before coming to Canada, but once here, they formed vibrant communities that have significantly shaped Canadian society.

Until now, there has never been a one-stop web portal dedicated to collecting, digital archiving, accessing and distributing information about Chinese Canadian history. The UBC-led project involves the coordination of an array of academic units that are each at the forefront of their fields. It brings together the outstanding expertise and resources of a wide range of on- and off-campus partners, including local civic institutions, and non-profit organizations. The initiative aims to create:

1. A bilingual (English and Chinese) website for Chinese Canadian history.

2. A digital archive that preserves digital material created by partner organizations funded by the CHRP in a searchable database.

3. Workshops in the summer of 2010 and 2011 that will be attended by participants from local community organizations and other organizations across Canada that are receiving CHRP funding. These workshops, along with community engagement events across the country, will also help promote the process of digital collection and preservation, and share insights gleamed from the summer workshops.

4. Promotion of Grade 5-12 classroom use of both the portal website and the digital materials through the creation of learning resources and teaching materials that will use CHRP created materials, embedding the material within a rethinking of the role of Chinese and First Nations peoples in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and in building Canada. The project aims to create 500 copies of teaching guides for the use of the downloadable web resources that can be accessed for free at the UBC website.

5. Virtual experiences that will appear in different forms on the portal website and within portable interactive kiosks, to be launched in early 2012.

Contact

Glenn Drexhage
Communications Officer, UBC Library
Tel: 604.827.3434
E-mail: glenn.drexhage@ubc.ca

Lorraine Chan
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2644
E-mail: lorraine.chan@ubc.ca

http://www.publicaffairs.ubc.ca/2010/08/09/mr-10-112/

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Chinese Canadian Stories: Uncommon Histories from a Common Past

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