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Archive for the ‘Exhibitions’ Category

Reflecting on my Summer

Posted on: August 31st, 2019 by Anna Irwin

By Jordan Sheffield, Archives Summer Student

Working in the Chilliwack Museum and Archives this summer has been a fantastic experience, full of interesting challenges, and learning opportunities.  This cannot be truer than in my experiences in working on the two exhibits that took up an enormous amount of my work at the archives, the first being the Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown, and the second being my own mini exhibit, A Day with the Doctor.  These two displays were different for all manner of reasons (scope, involvement, budget, time and even more that I cannot hope to list), so reflecting on the means and ends of both displays over the past couple days has been interesting and something I thought I might share. The whole experience in both exhibits has been fantastic and has certainly given me a greater appreciation for the odd complexities and issues that curators have to face when putting together a display they can feel pride in.

For some context, I joined the museum and archives staff at just about the most chaotic time possible, exhibit changeover.  Entering into my first few days the changeover of the temporary gallery was already well under way.  Anna, our curator, had already been working on the exhibit preparations for months before any actual work on the gallery itself began.  I took part in detail painting, putting up the vinyl text segments and photographs (basically giant stickers), cleaning, aligning lighting (being 6’7” certainly helped with that), mount-making, as well as working with artifacts that were being put on display.  The work was often very detail-oriented and forced me to take into account problems that I wouldn’t have considered prior; paint for example, needs to sit and off-gas once applied to plinths before they can be used. With all this said the exhibit came together wonderfully and made for an amazing introduction to the job.

Having come from helping out in the Five Corners exhibit, I had a small inkling of what I was in for when designing my own exhibit.  The first step was deciding on the topic I would be working on. I started looking into advertising as a possible exhibit topic, but I ended up going with my second idea: medicine. Once the idea was given the go-ahead, I needed to learn just how much could go into the case and which artifacts best highlighted what I wanted to discuss.

Greek Tear Vases; 1957.019.052a-b; [photo by Jordan Sheffield]

The first significant cut came to a small section on one of the most unusual aspects about the doctor: his collecting. Dr. McCaffrey regularly collected objects from around the world, including a pair of Greek tear vases from ~500 BCE. During the early phase of research, I had been worried about not having enough text or objects. Suddenly, I had too much and needed to reduce and refine the content! Once I had an idea of the space I was working with, things finally started to fall into place. 

Finalizing drafted labels was another challenge in the exhibition development process! For the most part, this involved formatting and reducing the size of my labels to make sure that the labels and text were easy to read and the text was able to be read by visitors of all ages. This had brought me nearly to the end of my exhibit now as most of the major thinking had already been completed and what I had left to do was to put all the final pieces together into one cohesive whole.  After all the build up to reach this point, the final stages almost felt underwhelming – it’s amazing how quickly an exhibit comes together once all the pieces have been pre-crafted. While the previous steps had taken weeks of work, the final step (the actual mounting of the exhibit) was done in a day. It was an odd feeling when the case was locked, with artifacts beyond my reach, because it had matured from a simple draft on the back table to fully finished. Once it had settled in that the project was fully done, I felt an enormous relief and pride that it was all complete!

A Day with the Doctor display at the Chilliwack Archives; [Photo by Anna Irwin]

Remnant Research: The Story of Nylon Day, 1946

Posted on: July 24th, 2019 by Anna Irwin

Our recent exhibition, Five Faces, Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown focuses on the common leisure activities and experiences which bring Chilliwackians together at Five Corners. While this seems like a simple concept on the surface, Five Corners has been (and continues to be) a very busy place, with events and social activity happening constantly on its streets.

Men and loaded pack horses destined for mines in Mt. Baker district in front of A.C. Henderon’s store at Five Corners. Many photographs and stories such as this were not included in the exhibition [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, PP501731]

The history of Five Corners is complex, rich and delightfully colourful at times. From a harrowing plane crash at the Empress gas station in 1938 to the potential discovery of gold at Five Corners in the 1980s, we discovered quite quickly we would have to narrow the scope of the exhibition somewhat for clarity and logistics. As we moved forward, we had to cut stories from the exhibition as they no longer fit the bill or we simply no longer had space to accommodate it!

Instead of condemning the research to the recesses of my hard drive, I’d like to share one of my favourite tales cut from the exhibition – the story of Nylon Day at Lois Lovell Hosiery & Lingerie in 1946.

Nylon: A Wartime Staple at Home and on the Frontlines

Rationing and “learning to do without” was a way of life for Canadians on the home front during the Second World War to support soldiers. Nylon stockings, (or more specifically, nylon fibres) were a valuable material on the warfront. Nylon had many uses to a soldier or manufacturer: it could be used to make flak suits and parachutes, for stitching wounds and as an outer layer on lightweight tents.

A popular fashion statement, nylon stockings were in very short supply in North America during the War. Fashion-forward women of the time, desperate for nylon, turned to cosmetics and paint to replicate the look of hosiery. Unable to purchase the real deal, women would paint a black line up the back of each of their legs, attempting to replicate the seam of hosiery. Some turned to the black market: The Chilliwack Progress notes in 1944 that American women were being warned about the presence of treated rayon being circulated as nylon. 

Nylon Madness Grips Chilliwack

Advertisement from The Chilliwack Progress for nylon sales at Lois Lovell, 1946. [The Chilliwack Progress, February 13, 1946]

In Chilliwack, nylons were equally challenging to come by. In February 1946, 400 pairs of nylons were slated for delivery to Chilliwack, an amount to be divided between Pickards, David Spencer and Lois Lovell’s lingerie stores. Of these stores, only Lois Lovell would sell nylons over the counter, the other stores requiring a pre-order to purchase a pair. Fervour was high: the previous shipment in December, consisting of 800 pairs, had sold out in only a handful of hours. One unnamed retailer lamented that the amount allotted to their store would not meet demand and another stated they would “like to put [their] supply out in the middle of the street and let people scramble for them”. The situation at Lois Lovell was of particular concern to the city police as the store was the only store in the city planning to sell nylons on a first come, first serve basis.

Customers line up outside Lois Lovell Hosiery & Lingerie, February 19, 1946 [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1997.059.006]

The day of the sale arrived. On February 19, 1946, more than 100 individuals lined the streets of Five Corners in front of Lois Lovell’s. Buses, coming from places such as Cultus Lake, were at full capacity, transporting women anxious to have a chance to purchase. Police were on hand, providing a presence to ensure the safety of all customers and merchants. At nearby Picks Hardware store, sales associates eager to get in on the flurry of activity, attempted to lure customers into the store, telling those in line that they “[had] nylons!” only for those who took the bait to discover they were referring to nylon fishing line. Nylons sold out at all locations by the end of the day.

No Fist Fights: Cooler Heads Prevail

Thankfully, the event passed without incident despite many being turned away due to lack of stock. An article issued in The Chilliwack Progress the next day ran with the title “Peaceful Affair: No Fist Fights on “Nylon Day.” While customers waited calmly in line, the day by no means satisfied the community demand for nylons and David Spencer’s and Pickards both began taking orders for the next nylon shipment following the sale. Following the war, nylons became gradually more available and fervour surrounding their sale dropped extensively.

Coming Soon: Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A Story of Diversity, Racism and Arson – New Online Exhibition

Posted on: January 9th, 2019 by Anna Irwin

Chinese-Canadian domestic worker holding the son of Lister Smith, c. 1896. Photograph by J.O. Booen.
[Chilliwack Museum and Archives, P.Coll 120, File 46]

Despite announcing an extension to our Mountaineers: Community Experience in Chilliwack’s Mountains exhibition, it’s been a non-stop flurry of activity at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives for our exhibition development team.

On January 15th, the Chilliwack Museum and Archives will be launching our latest online exhibition, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A Story of Diversity, Racism and Arson.

Made possible through the assistance of the Virtual Museum of Canada’s Community Memories Program , the exhibition makes extensive use of research conducted by Dr. Chad Reimer for his book, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History, and brings together object and archival collections from the Chilliwack Museum and Archives collection, along with audio and video interviews with Dr. Reimer and community members.

Chilliwack had a Chinatown?

Not just one, but two. Chinatown North was roughly located near Five Corners and was a thriving economic centre for the region’s community. Chinatown South was located along Yale Road West and was home to the Chinese Masonic Temple, an important community landmark that served various functions, including as a space of worship, meeting hall and hospital.

Subjected to discriminatory laws and practices at all levels of government, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns and their residents were commonly targets of racist remarks and attitudes from Chilliwack’s large Euro-Canadian community. These attitudes manifested frequently and can be seen in many different ways, including hiring practices at places of employment, letters submitted to the Chilliwack Progress and the multitude of suspected arsons which contributed to the decline of both Chinatowns.

Chilliwack’s Chinatowns Redux?

Chinese-Canadian labourers, such as Sing and his co-worker at Hulbert Hops Gardens, were a common sight in Chilliwack’s hop fields, c. 1901-1937.
[Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1987.013.004]

Those who visited the Gold Mountain Dream: Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley exhibition at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives in 2017 might be tempted to feel a bit of déjà vu and may wonder if this exhibition will be the same as the one featured at the museum.

Rest assured, while there may be some similarities to the Gold Mountain Dreams exhibition, the exhibition in 2017 was based upon a travelling exhibition from the Royal British Columbia Museum which allowed for the story of Chilliwack’s Chinatowns to be seen within the broader British Columbia gold rush narrative.

The new exhibition, meanwhile, primarily tackles the history of Chilliwack’s Chinese-Canadian residents post-gold rush. Broadly, it places emphasis on aspects of the daily life of Chilliwack’s early Chinese-Canadian residents in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This includes discussions of the Chinatowns merchant elite, whose entrepreneurial spirit permeated both Chinatown North and South and the employment opportunities, such as seasonal farm work and domestic housework that were common trades amongst Chilliwack’s Chinese-Canadians.

Outside of the working sphere, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A Story of Diversity, Racism and Arson delves into the social and familial lives of those within the Chinatowns. It highlights common themes from within the Chinatowns, such as the community’s lack of women and children and explores common social pursuits taken up by Chinatowns residents.


*Updated links to the Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A Story of Diversity, Racism and Arson on the Virtual Museum of Canada’s website will be provided on January 15th.

Copies of Dr. Chad Reimer’s book, Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History, are available for purchase at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

Introducing the Community Gallery

Posted on: August 15th, 2018 by Kelsey Ablitt

If you’ve visited the museum over the last few years, you’ve likely noticed various mini “exhibits” on the hallway between the two galleries. Over the past few years the hallway has been home to the photographs from the Kidtography Exhibit to journal entries from the Classroom in Residences program, both were collaborations with local classrooms. Ultimately, this hallway has become a space for the Education and Engagement Coordinator to display collaborative community projects.

A very happy me with the fresh vinyl.

With the school year having come to a close, the Classroom in Residence journal entries were removed from the wall. Knowing we wanted to keep this space as a home for community exhibits, it seemed appropriate to finally name the space. After some deliberation we settled on the “Community Gallery.” The Community Gallery would be home to future community collaborations to be displayed.

With the Community Gallery named, it was time to create a display or rather exhibit. To coincide with our latest exhibit “Mountaineers: Community Experience in Chilliwack’s Mountains”, curator Anna and I decided to hold a photography competition. The theme of the competition was engaging with our local mountains, meaning entries could be of hiking the mountains or images of the mountains from afar. From July 14th to August 3rd, we asked the community to use social media to submit their photos of the local mountains with us. The requirements were to use #chwkmountaineers, tag us @chwkmuseum, follow us and identify the mountain in their photo. Of course many of the entries featured some of Chilliwack’s better known peaks such as Mt. Cheam and Mt. Slesse. All of the entries were amazing and it was exciting to see the community taking part in our competition.

The Community Gallery featuring its latest exhibit, Mountaineers Photo Competition.

Along with prizes, our three weekly winners and overall competition winner will have their image displayed in the Community Gallery until the conclusion of our Mountaineers Exhibit in early 2019.

Join us in celebrating these community connections by visiting the museum to see the latest exhibit in the Community Gallery, on display now.

Building a Mini-Exhibit: A Summer Student Perspective by Alec Postlethwaite

Posted on: August 8th, 2018 by Anna Irwin

During my time with the Chilliwack Museum and Archives I was tasked with creating a miniature exhibit for the archive’s reading room, a project which proved to be one of the most challenging projects I have taken on as a summer student.

Topic choice was the first challenge I needed to overcome. With Chilliwack’s history offering a diverse range of topics, it was difficult finding one that was both intriguing and able to be displayed in one display case.

Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1997.021.002

Narrowing down topic choice was a long process.While I found lots of engaging stories, events, and timelines, I was always faced with the question of “Will other people find this interesting?”. Luckily, a few seemed like they would.

One of these topics was the logging of roads in the 1890s, which would become the roads Chilliwack still uses today. After a few afternoons of research, however, I realised that while there was enough information to know logging had happened, the amount of information I was able to find was not enough to mount a mini-exhibit.

I chose to find a new topic. After a few more hours researching and a following a few new ideas, I found the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers (PCMR). Digging through the archives, I managed to find plenty of useful information in a few short hours, including news articles, archival material, and artifacts. It appeared the only work left was to make some labels and put it all in a case.

Chilliwack and Archives, PP503985

At this point, I was faced again with the small size of the display case. While the case is large, it could not accommodate all of the material I had uncovered. After an editing process and considering space restrictions, I decided to narrow the topic to an exploration of the PCMR through a social lens. Scaling down the topic allowed for the topic to become more manageable and while allowing the amount of material to remain workable.  The result of this was an interpretation and a story local to Chilliwack.

I now had to make my interpretation accessible to a number of age groups. This meant taking my own thoughts  and trying to explain for demographics of all ages, which was the most difficult part of the project. This was because I needed to both keep my original message and make it accessible to younger age groups.

Overall, I am grateful that I had the chance to make this exhibit. The challenges I was faced with have better prepared me for the goals I hope to accomplish in my professional life and I will be pleased to carry them with me.

The exhibit is scheduled to open August 17, 2018. 

Interactive Discovery Bins

Posted on: May 2nd, 2018 by Kelsey Ablitt

Do you ever see old items and get the overwhelming urge to handle them? Well have no fear, the discovery bins are here for you!

The Discovery Bins are located in the Community of Villages.

Located in the back section of our permanent exhibit is an interactive discovery bin station. The discovery bins provide a more hands on and interactive experience for visitors of all ages, though they tend to appeal largely to children. For children, these bins help them learn about and test out tools people once used in their home or to communicate with each other. For other visitors, the artifacts in the bins can be a trip down memory lane, as they see familiar items that may have been found in their childhood home’s kitchen.

We currently have six themed discovery bins available for exploration. The themes are farming, kitchenware, communication, travel, education and local First Nations history. In each bin various artifacts are provided along with interactive games and worksheets. The worksheets can be helpful in starting the conversation about what something is and how it may have be used. A Discovery Hunt booklet takes visitors through each bin as a type of scavenger hunt.

Do you recognize this artifact? Next to it is a glimpse of our Discovery Hunt Booklet.

Some of our most popular artifacts are an eggbeater, a rotary phone and a butter press. With the way technology has evolved, for some visitors these older forms of modern items can really puzzle some of our younger visitors.

On your next visit make sure to check out the discovery bins, you’ll never know what you’ll find!

SQ’ÉWLETS Exhibition Final Week

Posted on: April 26th, 2018 by Adrienne Rempel

Installation image of Sq’éwlets exhibition. Photo by Lori Johnson.

This is the final week that the exhibition SQ’ÉWLETS: A Stó:lō–Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley will be on display at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. The exhibition will wrap up this Saturday April 28th, with a closing ceremony held from 10am to 11am (the exhibition will remain open until 2pm on Saturday). All are welcome to this community event.

Sq’éwlets exhibition opening event.

During its 5-month span, the  SQ’ÉWLETS exhibition has welcomed over 800 visitors. With a strong interest from local schools, our staff provided exhibition tours to nearly 200 students in the community. This spring, we also ran our first classroom-in-residence program, which provided two classrooms with a dedicated period of time to engage with, and study, the exhibition.

If you don’t have the chance to make it to the exhibition, you can still catch the content through the Sq’éwlets First Nation website (but we hope you make it out anyway!)

With informative panels, photos, touchable objects, a material identification activity, video, and a touchscreen portal to the exhibition website, there is a lot to see and do for folks of all ages!

(The website was produced by the Sq’éwlets First Nation in collaboration with the Stó:lō Resource and Research Management Centre at Stó:lō Nation, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and additional partners.)

New exhibition focused on Sq’éwlets First Nation now open

Posted on: November 9th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel

It’s been a busy month at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives! This week, we opened our latest exhibition, Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō-Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley. To bring you this exhibition, the Museum partnered with the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre in collaboration with the Sq’éwlets First Nation.

View of exhibition space, walls are blue and have photos on them, in the centre of the image is a false wall with a video projected onto it.

Installation image: Our Voices projection

What it’s all about

The ancient home of the Sq’éwlets First Nation is at the junction of the Fraser and Harrison Rivers. The history of the Sq’éwlets people from their ancient origins, up to the present day, is shared in the exhibition through videos, cultural belongings, and photos.

A notable aspect of the presentation is that the content wasn’t written or generated by the Museum staff—it was created by the community at Sq’éwlets, from their perspective, and in their words. Self-representation and personal voice are key aspects of the exhibition programme. Visitors will find that the Halq’eméylem language is used prominently throughout the display.

A note on terminology

Installation image of Sq’éwlets exhibition

Installation image: belongings on display

In the exhibition texts, you will notice a small but significant change in terminology. Rather than the commonly used term “artifact” or “object,” the material culture on display is referred to as “belongings.” Alongside the belongings, you will also see historical and contemporary photographs of belongings being used.

The reasoning behind this is multi-faceted, but one of our goals is to emphasize that these items and technologies are still utilized and practiced today, as they have been for generations. Perhaps most important is to acknowledge that the material culture on display belongs to the Sq’éwlets community and their ancestors.

For an in-depth discussion on museological use of the term “belonging” in regards to Coast Salish material culture, check out the following article, Belongings” in “c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city.

A community welcome

Welcome by Chief Robert Coombes at the exhibition opening

Welcome by Chief Robert Coombes at the exhibition opening

The exhibition opened on November 2nd, and despite Chilliwack’s first snowfall of the season, many visitors were present. To start the event, a welcome was provided Chief Robert Combes of the local Skwah First Nation. Chief Andy Phillips of the Sq’éwlets First Nation then introduced the project, followed by traditional song and dance led by Johnny Williams on drum. City Councillor Sue Attrill then spoke a few words, along with Museum Director Matthew Francis.

To all of the folks who braved the weather and difficult roads to celebrate this new exhibition, we thank you!

(This exhibition also marks the first time we’ve installed a display using the Museum’s new display casesand they are a dream to work with!)

Sq’éwlets: A Stó:lō–Coast Salish Community in the Fraser River Valley is on display from November 2, 2017 to April 28, 2018. Read further about the exhibition here.

The Case for Cases

Posted on: September 21st, 2017 by Matthew Francis

Early in 1958, just after our organization was established – the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society  President, Oliver Wells, did what all good Museum leaders do at some point: he sent out a fundraising letter.

SPOILER ALERT! That’s what this blog post is really about too

But why don’t we have some good ole’ historical fun while we’re at it, eh?

Oliver Wells serves as the founding Chairman of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society.

Oliver Wells served as the founding Chairman of the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society.

In that letter, Mr. Wells made a very logical point:

“…we must be able to give assurance that [valuable historical material] will be safely stored and displayed.” 

Oliver Wells fundraising letter, Feb. 1958.

Oliver Wells fundraising letter, February, 1958.

Some things have not changed. Then, as now, this is still one of the most basic principles of preservation and conservation. Museums have a responsibility to care for their collections. We have been doing just that here in Chilliwack for sixty years.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives cares for: 

  • Over one million items in our Archival records, including hundreds of thousands of photographic images. Our Archives are a trusted repository, well-respected by historians and researchers;
  • Over ten thousand historic objects – also known as artifacts or belongings, each one shedding light upon a unique person, place, memory, or moment that matters to Chilliwack – to you.

Did you know, however, that less than 1% of our collection is exhibited at any given time? Why?

  • For starters, there just isn’t enough gallery space in our National Historic Site Museum building to exhibit too much more of the collection in a way that ensure artifact conservation, AND;
  • The existing cases that we have were not purpose-built for the task of displaying many of the more vulnerable objects from our collections.

From the late 1950s until now, our skilled and creative professional staff have done their very best, working with the kinds of exhibit cases that we have had available. Many of these have been greatly appreciated hand-me-downs, cascaded to us from other institutions, such as the Museum of Vancouver.

In other cases, we have had cases purpose-built for our exhibitions by local carpenters – with plywood structure, plinths and plexi-glass. They look pretty good, and do a serviceable job of presenting your historic objects (which we steward for the public good).

The cases we have, however, are not built to last forever, and do not fully achieve the kinds of conservation standards that Chilliwack’s significant material culture truly deserves. They don’t have the kinds of security features we expect today, such as hidden cam-locks, and they don’t offer the same level of environmental protection (from such factors as UV light, moisture, pests, contact) to ensure fragile and precious materials are safeguarded for future generations.

Back in 2011, when the Archives facility was expanded at Evergreen Hall, you helped us to acquire high-quality, rolling, shelving. This shelving, however, is intended for storage, and not for exhibition purposes.

In short: we need new exhibit cases – yesterday

Thanks to the support of the Government of Canada’s Canadian Cultural Spaces Program, the City of Chilliwack, and the Chilliwack Foundation – all of which provided significant grants – our need is being met!

The new cases are expected to arrive in late October, and our exhibits will transition into them, with our next exhibit opening into them in early November, 2017.

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives will soon have the highest quality, Canadian-made exhibit cases, which will strengthen our curatorial program for decades to come.  Custom-constructed to meet our local needs by the highly regarded Zone Display Cases, nineteen (19!) new exhibit cases will give us tremendous flexibility to show you more of our rich collections.

Best of all, many of these units are completely modular, allowing for set-up in a broad range of different ways, allowing for versatility. You will be able to connect with your history in an amazing new way! 

So now, following in Mr. Well’s footsteps, I’m going to let you all know…

2015-07-francis

We need your help!

The total cost for 19 cases is $142, 000, and that is the largest purchase that the Chilliwack Museum and Historical Society has ever made. While we have raised over $100, 000 to date, we still need to raise just over $30, 000 in 2017 to complete the exhibit case project. Will you partner with us?

If you’d like to give to honour or in memory of someone special, recognition opportunities are available. 

Thank you for the amazing generosity of those caring individuals and Chilliwack businesses that have already contributed.

No gift is too small – every contribution makes a difference! 

For all the details, you can check out our Chilliwack Museum 60th Annivesary – Case Renewal Legacy Project.

How to give?

  1. Make your gift easily and securely ONLINE through our Chilliwack Museum and Archives Canada Helps Page:
  1. By Mail…

Send your cheque to:

Chilliwack Museum and Archives

45820 Spadina Avenue

Chilliwack, BC, V2P 1T3

  1. By Phone – Give us a call!

Our phone number is (604) 795-5210.

  1. In Person

Drop by the Museum during opening hours.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, Matthew Francis, Executive Director, any time. 

Exploring Chinese-Canadian history in the Fraser Valley

Posted on: July 12th, 2017 by Adrienne Rempel

The Chilliwack Museum and Archives’ latest exhibition 金山梦! 勇闯菲沙河谷 (Gold Mountain Dream: Bravely Venture into the Fraser Valley) is now open! From rare archival images and artifacts, to detailed storytelling and interactive elements, this exhibition focuses on early Chinese-Canadian history in the Fraser Valley.

Installation view of exhibition.

Installation view of the exhibition.

The Background Story

In the 1800s, gold fever consumed the world. Masses of people from all corners of the world voluntarily migrated to far-off locations such as Australia, New Zealand, California and British Columbia. Their goal was to find not only gold, but a better life for themselves and their families. By 1858 the territory now known as BC saw its first major gold rush along the Fraser Valley.

In Chinese culture, there was a myth about 山金 (Gold Mountain) that helped fuel an influx of migrants who journeyed from ports in Hong Kong across the Pacific Ocean to Victoria in search for new fortune. This resulted in the first large Chinese settlement in Canada.

After the gold rush lost its momentum, many workers of Chinese origin chose Chilliwack as a place to settle down and try to build a new life. It wasn’t easy. Much of Chilliwack’s early infrastructure, from roads to farmlands, was developed by Chinese laborers. It was strenuous work, clearing the land of trees and cultivating soil at low pay, and many workers couldn’t afford to have their families join them in Canada.

Business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. CMA P7642

Chinatown South business owners Wong Gip She (right) and Wong Gip Low She (left) with their two sons Banford and David, c. 1916. CMA P7642

Many persevered, however, and by the 1880’s a Chinese merchant class emerged (and between 1908 and 1930 comprised 10% of the registered businesses in Chilliwack). By 1920 the city had two distinct Chinatowns: Chinatown North situated above the Five Corners region; and Chinatown South, around what is now Yale Road West. At their height, the Chinatown’s were host to a bustling population living in large 2-storey wood-frame buildings, including a Chinese Masonic Hall.

An International Exhibition

Key historical content for the exhibition’s local elements was based on the 2011 book Chilliwack’s Chinatowns: A History by Chad Reimer. The Gold Mountain Dream panels are a travelling exhibition organized by the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. These panels are bilingual, and are written both in English and Simplified Chinese. Beyond Chilliwack, Gold Mountain Dream has been displayed at the Guangdong Museum of Chinese Nationals Residing Abroad (Guangzhou, China) and the Chinese Cultural Centre Museum (Vancouver, BC).

Detail view of artifacts in a display case.

Detail view of artifacts in a display case.

Interactive Elements

The exhibition has interactive content for viewers of all ages, from touchable objects, to videos, an audiostation, and an introductory Mahjong set. So bring the whole family for a visit, or plan a Thursday evening date night to catch this stunning exhibition!

The exhibition will continue running throughout the summer until October 9th.