A new virtual exhibition shares the “rich Chinese culture and history” in York Region and marks the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
“As a school board, we want to ensure our students and families see themselves, their identities and cultures reflected in their classrooms,” says Rebekah Mitchell, curator of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) Museum and Archives.
The exhibition was developed in collaboration with community members, partners, students from the University of Toronto’s Museum Studies program and the Markham Museum. “We hope that educators, families and community members can use this virtual exhibit to learn more about the rich Chinese culture and history here in York Region and to spark conversations about their own identities.”
Called Standing in the Doorway: Lived Histories & Experiences of the Chinese Community, the exhibition features artifacts, photographs and stories from York Region community members. It highlights the Chinese Immigration Act of 1923 – also known as the Chinese Exclusion Act – which banned the entry of virtually all Chinese immigrants for 24 years. Although migration into Canada from most countries was controlled or restricted in some way, only Chinese people were singled out completely from entering because of race, the Canadian Encyclopedia reports.
“We want to tell the story of resilience and perseverance of an important community in Markham and York Region,” says Markham Museum Curator Janet Reid. “This community-driven exhibit will celebrate our Chinese residents, and also engage and educate the wider community through a multi-part virtual and touring exhibition program.”
Students and educators produced a variety of artistic pieces that reflect the resilience and perseverance of the residents of Chinese descent. The YRDSB credits Nokiidaa Public School, Bur Oak Secondary School, Markville S.S., Markham District High School, Unionville H.S. and Pierre Elliott Trudeau H.S., all in Markham, with providing feedback, perspective, input and personal expression into the creation of this exhibition.
The exhibition is available at www2.yrdsb.ca/standing-doorway. Students and staff at Nokiidaa P.S helped develop the educational kits that will be shared with educators as part of the in-person and travelling exhibition that opens at the Markham Museum in September.
“I like how we’re bringing awareness to the community about Chinese people,” says Serena, a Grade 7 student at Nokiidaa P.S. “It was quite frustrating for me to learn about how there was a Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada, because you know how sometimes you think Canada is a wonderful place, none of this could happen, but the Chinese Exclusion Act happened and I’m still seeing some discrimination [against] Chinese people. I think this is a really good idea to appreciate Chinese culture.”
This project is partly funded by the federal government through the Exhibition Circulation Fund component of the Museum Assistance Program. Listen to the Tune In YRDSB podcast to learn more about the exhibition and the significance of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Photo: Standing in the Doorway: Lived Histories & Experiences of the Chinese Community features artifacts, photographs and stories from York Region community members.