Since October 2014, I have had the pleasure and the honour of serving on the Legacy Initiatives Advisory Council (LIAC), which has provided the government of British Columbia with advice to ensure successful implementation of the legacy projects arising from the Chinese Historical Wrongs Consultation Final Report and Recommendations. Over the past several decades I have known all of the other 21 LIAC members either as a fellow volunteer, board member, committee member, academic colleague, or simply as an admirer through media reports. I can attest to their exceptional understanding of Chinese Canadian culture and social history and their outstanding reputations as respected leaders in their communities.
The topic of this special issue of Curious is “Behind the Scenes Work of the Chinese Legacy Initiatives”, a Royal British Columbia Museum initiative to document stories of people who have been working on different Legacy Projects. In historical projects like these, stories of personal involvement bring to life scenes and episodes that would otherwise recede and fade away. These stories are not just elements of an academic history to be memorized along with their dates and then forgotten soon after a final exam at school. They are part of the LIAC’s broader mandate, which is to ensure that the British Columbia public, as well as visitors to our province, are reminded of the many trials and tribulations as well as the contributions made to our society by people of Chinese ancestry.
All LIAC members volunteered their time and effort to contribute to a total of eight major project areas—the creation of commemorative plaques or monuments to draw attention to places and events that played a significant role in BC Chinese Canadian history; development of a dedicated online resource for accessing information about the historical wrongs and about the outstanding contributions made to society, culture and business by our Chinese compatriots; and publication of an exceptional book which profiles the contributions of notable British Columbians of Chinese ancestry.
This special issue of Curious documents the efforts of colleagues from Barkerville Historic Town to Victoria, Vancouver to Nanaimo; some within the Royal BC Museum, others from different institutions across British Columbia. These personal reports come mostly from ‘insiders’—front line researchers, interviewers, archivists, curators, digitizers, outreach kit developers, etc. Their stories will provide interesting and informative reading and hopefully they will also inspire readers to think of similar approaches to other dimensions of British Columbia’s multicultural history.
There’s a ‘gold mine’ of historical artifacts out there—photographs, letters, documents, diaries, local community newspapers—all waiting to be collected, catalogued, photographed, digitized and made accessible to anyone with an interest in British Columbia’s colourful history. Enhanced public access to such historical materials will give us all a better understanding of how we have come to be who we are today.