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Chinese Canadian legal history

“Road to Justice” is a new web resource outlining the early legal history of Chinese Canadians. Presented by the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic with funding from the Community Historical Recognition Program, the website gives background on all aspects of Chinese Canadian legal history including laws and legislation, key court cases, the first Chinese Canadian lawyers and the redress campaign.  The site includes text, case study documents, video interviews, and a graphical timeline which is a great teaching resource.

Related material in the Chung Collection includes material related to Dock Yip, the first Chinese Canadian lawyer called to the bar. Also try searching under subject headings such as Chinese–capture and imprisonment, Law & legal affairs, and Emigration & Immigration.  Researchers of this topic should also be sure to consult the finding aid for the John Keenlyside Legal Research Collection, which like the Chung Collection, is held in the Rare Books and Special Collections division of the UBC Library.

Updated archives: Mildred Fahrni fonds

We have recently updated the archives of Mildred Fahrni, a social activist from B.C. who was active in a number of human, woman’s and children’s rights organizations, including the YMCA, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and a school for homeless boys in India. An active speaker and lecturer, she won the Vancouver […]

Cantonese opera in the Chung Collection and at MOA


Cantonese Opera troupe

A favourite stop in the Chung Collection exhibition is always the photograph of the Cantonese Opera troupe in case 5. It is a beautifully detailed photograph, taken by Cecil B. Wand in 1923.

Those who are looking for more on Cantonese Opera must also stop at the UBC Museum of Anthropology, where they have a collection of over 400 Cantonese opera costumes, props and instruments. For reasons unknown, travelling troupes sometimes left costumes and other items behind in Vancouver with the Jin Wah Sing Musical Association, who stored the costumes until they were acquired by the Museum of Anthropology.

Do not despair if you cannot make it to campus- through the MOA website you can view high quality photographs of all of these objects. Visit the MOA Collection Online and type “Cantonese opera” as your search terms and this is what you will see:

You can click on each item and zoom  in to see the amazing detail that went into these costumes:

Information on visiting MOA is available on their website. It’s definitely worth a trip!

A year of writers’ archives

Rare Books and Special Collections collects the archives of a number of British Columbian authors, all of whom have made a significant impact on literature in this province.  A number of these archival collections have been updated over the past year or so (click on the name of each author to read the finding aids […]

Archives of the Yip family and company

Yip Sang with four of his childrenI was recently asked where all of the archival material related to the Yip Family and the Wing Sang Company (later the Yip Sang Company) is kept. Because Yip Sang and his family were so prominent in the early days of Vancouver’s Chinese-Canadian community, they are now of great interest to researchers. It seems like a good time to highlight the various places where this archival material can be found:

The two main institutions with archives originating from the Yip family are here in the Chung Collection at UBC Library and also at the City of Vancouver Archives.  In the Chung Collection, we have a number of family photographs and other family documents, such as correspondence between the siblings, Christmas cards, wedding and party invitations; personal documents of some of the siblings and their various career and personal interests; and extensive business records of the Wing Sang/Yip Sang Company, including records of steamship ticket sales, and records related to their exporting and cannery businesses. We also have a number of artifacts from the Wing Sang building, mostly related to business, such as clipboards, a lantern and rubber stamps.

At the City of Vancouver Archives, there are similar documents, including family photographs and business records. What makes the material at the City of Vancouver really special are more than 600 undelivered letters sent to and from Chinese immigrants and Chinese family and friends in China. The Yip family acted as unofficial postmasters for the Chinese-Canadian community, because letters addressed with Chinese characters could not be delivered by the Canadian postal system. The undelivered letters in the fonds are written in older style Chinese, dating from ca. 1903 to 1919.  Through a joint digitization project between UBC Library and the City of Vancouver Archives, these letters are now digitized and available online.

Finally, there are over 300 artifacts related to the Yip family at the Museum of Vancouver. You can see some of their Chinatown artifacts online, and see some artifacts in person in their Gateway to the Pacific exhibition.

How did the archives of one family end up in two institutions? When the Wing Sang building renovations were started in the 1980’s, one family member offered some of the historical material to Dr. Chung, and another family member sent other material to the City of Vancouver Archives (you can read the really interesting story of their salvage operation in the Wing Sang building on their website). The good news is, both halves of the collection are now in public institutions, freely available to any researcher who wishes to view them! You can even search both the digitized material from Chung Collection and the undelivered Yip letters through our joint project The Chinese Experience in B.C. 1850-1950.

You can read more about the Yip family through the Chung Collection, and also browse all of the Yip family and company items in the collection; you can also access online a finding aid to the collection at the City of Vancouver Archives.

New archives: the Fuller family singers

A modestly sized but interesting collection has been added to Rare Books and Special Collections- the Fuller family fonds contains the records of a family of musicians- Rosalind, Cynthia and Dorothy Fuller were the talent, brother Walter acted as their manager. The Fuller sisters originated from Dorset, England, but these records are from their American […]

How to keep track of your research, Part 2

A while back I posted an iPhone app which some researchers use to keep track of photographs they take of documents they’ve consulted in archives. Miriam Posner, a colleague from Emory University libraries (who I met at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute a couple of summers back) has posted to her blog steps for taking […]

This day in Vancouver: Greenhill Park explosion

Thanks to The Dependent Magazine for the reminder that yesterday was the anniversary of the Greenhill Park explosion in Vancouver Harbour on March 6, 1945.  The S.S. Greenhill Park was a freighter and the explosion, initially blamed on improper storage of combustible materials, killed 8 longshoremen and injured 19 other workers.

Sources much later told late-Vancouver historian Chuck Davis, the explosion was to be blamed on a deadly combination of sodium chlorate, stowed whiskey, and a match struck beneath the deck. You can read about this story on the History of Metropolitan Vancouver.

In the Chung Collection, we have archival material which originated with Hugh Robinson, who was on the board of inquiry for the explosion. The material includes inquiry proceedings, correspondence, notes, clippings, and mechanical drawings of the ship. They can be found in the database by searching for “Green Hill Park” or for “Robinson, Hugh.”