A dream becoming a reality is something that occurs so rarely, but that is exactly what is happening for those pushing ahead with the goal of creating an online space to highlight the unique cultural heritage and contributions of Asian Canadians. The Virtual Museum of Asian Canadian Cultural Heritage (VMACCH), the result of a partnership involving the York Centre for Asian Research (YCAR) and the Asian Heritage Month – Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture Inc., is expected to be launched next March, making that dream a reality.
“I am delighted that there will finally be an online forum to showcase Asian Canadian culture and heritage. This virtual museum is a great opportunity for Asian Canadians to come together across the country in an ongoing dialogue," said Canadian Senator Vivienne Poy (left), the patron of Asian Heritage Month – Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc. and honorary chair of the VMACCH Board of Advisors. “It also has the potential to be a superb educational tool for students who want to learn more about our Asian Canadian communities.”
The museum, which is currently accepting contributions from the public on a wide range of topics related to Asian Canadians (see list below), will showcase the cultural experiences and expressions of Asian Canadians in a variety of capacities from across Canada. It will strive to provide insight into how this demographic experiences life in Canada, how Asian Canadians choose to express their traditional culture and heritage, and what these expressions and experiences mean to Asian Canadian communities. The project is funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage.
"YCAR is really excited to be working with Asian Heritage Month and their partner community organizations on a project that will draw attention to this important part of Canada’s history and cultural heritage,” said York Professor Susan Henders (right), director of YCAR. “York scholars are leaders in the study of Asian Canadian diaspora communities. This is a great opportunity to make their research and creative work better known.”
From photo galleries of contemporary Asian photographers’ work, stories shared between grandparents and grandchildren to videos and other multimedia as well as work on traditional festivals celebrated within Asian Canadian communities, every effort is being made to examine a variety of perspectives and give them all an equal voice in the project, said Kay Li (left), president of the Asian Heritage Month – Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc. and a YCAR research associate. "The experiences of Asian Canadians nationwide are an important part of Canada’s past, present and future. We want this museum to reflect and celebrate these contributions."
The benefits of such a project are immense and far reaching. Not only will the VMACCH allow for the preservation and online showcasing of one of Canada’s most culturally diverse communities, but it will provide a meeting place for Asian Canadians as well as other Canadians to come together and share in cultural experiences. By creating an easy-to-navigate, accessible meeting place, the VMACCH will open the barriers often encountered in cultural exchanges, said Li.
The educational value of the project is also significant allowing free, online access to a rich and abundant cultural ocean of knowledge for both students and educators. The idea first sparked among the Board of Directors of Asian Heritage Month – Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc.
"Dr. Kay Li and the team at the Asian Heritage Month – Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture Inc. have been tireless in seeking partner organizations and funding for the museum,” said Henders. “The project underlies how community partnerships and digital technology can open up our thinking about the nature of research and research dissemination."
The VMACCH team has been working in collaboration with York University, the University of Toronto, Bata Shoe Museum, Gardiner Museum, Social Service Network, the Chinese Pen Society of Canada, the 2006 Art Club, The We Artists Association, Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick, Chinese Canadian Photographic Society of Toronto, AlphaBeta Consultants, Asian Canadian artist Gauri Guha and Asian Canadian writer Dr. Lien Chao. Supervising parties overseeing the project include the Board of Advisors: University of Toronto Professor Eric Fong, York Professors Susan Henders and Wendy Wong, and Senator Vivienne Poy.
Some of the topics the museum’s organizers are looking for content about:
- general history of Asian Canadians
- cultural traditions and storytelling by Asian Canadians from Central, South, East and Southeast Asia
- contributions of Asian Canadians to Canada
- visual art
- science & technology
- prominent Asian Canadians portrait gallery
- Asian Canadian cultural history education
- policy issues; cultural roadshows
- Asian Canadian social history
- festivals from Central, East, South and Southeast Asia
- Asian Canadian political history
- exclusions & inclusions
- ethnic statistics
- the way forward
- milestones in Asian Canadian history
- milestones from Central, East, South and Southeast Asia