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Developing Local History Kits: Chilliwack’s Chinatowns

Posted on: May 4th, 2016 by

“’In my opinion, the Chinese have been left out of our local history due to carelessness. Those people cleared an awful lot of the land around Chilliwack…’” Bob Maitland (Chilliwack’s Chinatowns, p.186)

Over the last few weeks I’ve been immersing myself in the history of Chilliwack’s Chinatowns, reading Chad Reimer’s book Chilliwack’s Chinatowns and learning about this somewhat lost history of our city. I’ve been working with a fantastic group of dedicated elementary teachers from School District 33 to develop a local history kit focusing on this topic for use in classrooms. This is why I love Bob Maitland’s quote from the book; we’re planning to shine light on this important piece of our city’s history so that it isn’t lost again.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, January 17, 1918. Page 1.

Chilliwack Progress Newspaper Clipping, January 17, 1918. Page 1.

But Chilliwack’s Chinatowns is a bit of a tough read for elementary students. So how do we take all of this great research and archival documents and make it teacher and student friendly? Learning about local communities in the past and present is an important part of the curriculum, as well as studying the contributions of people from different backgrounds in shaping Canada’s identity. Learning more about the contributions of the Chinese community in the growth of Chilliwack is an important topic and we’ve been working hard to find ways to bring it into the classroom in a meaningful way.

Historical documents show that Chinese were arriving in Chilliwack at the same time as many Europeans. Many found work for white landowners clearing the land for farming. Chinese labourers cleared a lot of land in Chilliwack and began to settle in the area. Many leased land of their own and grew market gardens, eventually a distinct Chinatown emerged in Chilliwack as Chinese opened their own businesses and came together as a community. Discriminatory government policies restricted many Chinese from becoming Canadian citizens and from bringing their families from China to join them. Chilliwack’s Chinese community was not immune to this and did face discrimination from the wider population.

Some of the archive documents we have been putting together for the kit.

Some of the archive documents we have been putting together for the kit.

As we dig through the documents and newspaper articles which help tell the story of this community, we have been selecting sources and information which will help students to uncover this history themselves as well. Being able to critically look at primary sources from the past and ask questions about that source is an important skill to learn. Using local resources that help students learn about the place where they live makes the work all the more meaningful. Once this kit is completed, I am hoping to continue working on developing more resources based on local history for teachers to use in the classroom, continuing to help make our museum and archives more accessible to teachers and students.

Are you interested in learning more about Chilliwack’s Chinatowns? You can pick up a copy of Chad Reimer’s book in our gift shop or buy it online!

Volunteer Spotlight – Arlene Blanchette

Posted on: March 24th, 2016 by

Arlene Blanchette decided to apply to volunteer with us when she first moved to Chilliwack. She thought it would be a great way to learn about her new home. In April of 2008 Arlene began with us at our Museum building. You will find her filling two shifts in our gift shop, one on Wednesday afternoons and one on Thursday mornings. She greets guests, answers questions and processes sales, and Arlene also created and maintains our inventory system.

Arlene says her favourite Museum memories involve interacting with the visiting children. Whether it has been at Christmas time when the classes come in to learn about Christmas in Chilliwack in the late 1800’s, or when the schools are out and grandparents and parents bring the children in to see the museum. Sometimes it has been hearing the children tell her about convincing their families to come in that has been a special and entertaining treat.

Arlene loves to read, travel and spend time with her sons and their families. She is pictured here on her recent trip to China and she will soon be flying off to Thailand.

We thank her for her time and talents that she so generously shares with us!


Connecting with Teachers

Posted on: February 24th, 2016 by

Listening to and connecting with teachers is an important part of my job as I develop new educational programs and resources.

This past Friday we hosted a Professional Development day for SD33 teachers. We were not only able to share our knowledge and resources, but learned more about the needs of teachers as well. This kind of collaboration is exciting for us as I aim to make our resources meaningful and useful to educators.

Professional Development

Teachers practice artifact interpretation at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

Teachers practice artifact interpretation at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

It’s a new year, new curriculum and by hosting a Pro-D day we helped teachers dive into place-based learning and explore opportunities to connect to Chilliwack’s history in their classrooms. I met teachers who have been integrating place-based learning into lessons for years as well as those that are relatively new to building lessons using local content. Most were unfamiliar with the wealth of resources the museum and archives has to offer.

The day started at the archives where Jane and Shannon introduced the teachers to the work of a curator and archivist. This included a tour of our collection. Every single one of our artifacts has a story to tell about Chilliwack and the people who have lived here, Jane told the teachers as they explored the collection. Shannon gave an introduction to our archival collection, including an intro to the online Chilliwack Progress search tool – an invaluable resource for both teachers and researchers. Using an artifact interpretation guide, the teachers were then able to practice their inquiry skills while getting to handle and interpret artifacts.

Teachers were able to explore one of five local history kits which included copies of records from our archives.

Teachers were able to explore one of five local history kits which included copies of records from our archives.

In the afternoon, we broke into groups and explored local history kits focused on specific topics such as the British Columbia Electric Railway or the 1948 Flood. These kits were pre-prepared using copies of records from our archives. Teachers were given a chance to interpret the material and then discussed how these topics and materials could be used in classroom teaching. One teacher suggested using a BCER ticket as a quick math exercise asking, how much would it have cost to go from Yarrow to Chilliwack? What a great way to integrate a local topic into a math lesson! There are so many opportunities to use place-based learning in all subject areas. We were only able to begin scratching the surface, but I am looking forward to further exploring the possibilities!

We’re hoping to further develop these local history kits and make them available for teachers to use in the classroom. Using primary sources in teaching, whether it is an object that students can handle, a newspaper article or a railway ticket, is a great way to get students interested and involved in a topic.

Are you a teacher or educator working in the Chilliwack area? If you have any questions about how the Museum and Archives can help support you in bringing place-based content into your teaching feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Volunteer Spotlight – Bryan Stokes

Posted on: January 20th, 2016 by
Bryan Stokes

Bryan and his daughters enjoying the merry-go-round at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC.

On June 3, 2009 Bryan Stokes began volunteering with us at our Museum building. You will find him in our gift shop on Tuesday afternoons, always with a book in hand, as he greets guests, answers questions and processes sales. Bryan and his late wife Kathleen have been of great assistance in our gift shop offering advice based on their many years in the retail business.

Bryan says his favourite memory of volunteering at the museum is talking to the children. He recalls the day that he sat with a group of 8 children and their Mom and told them the Museum ghost story and showed them the items in our Discovery Cupboard. He was amused to tell them things that their Mom didn’t know and enjoyed watching their faces light up with interest. When asked what motivates him to give his time to us he said it is working with the staff, and viewing and learning from the exhibits.

Bryan is a warm, kind man who loves to tell stories of his current travels with his (now adult) children. He has retired and will turn 75 this year but he keeps very busy with two volunteer jobs. He also volunteers at Chilliwack Crime Prevention Society as the Speed Watch Coordinator.

Thank you for the time you give us Bryan!