Museum Discoveries

Five Museum Discoveries

It’s International Museum Week and I have five museum discoveries to share: one by a friend who attended the Chinese Canadian Museum in Victoria, two new (and the last for 2022 and the next few years) exhibits at the Royal British Columbia Museum that I attended, and two from on-line sources.


My friend May Chan recently wrote about a new adventure. She has been keeping a low public profile during the Pandemic and is starting to venture out.


Here is what she wrote:

“The big excitement today was venturing to the recently opened Chinese Canadian Museum in historic Fan Tan Alley in the heart of Chinatown.  I waited months for good weather and feeling comfortable re: going indoors for non-essential ventures.  It is a small but well curated exhibit.

4 museum discoveries

“The bigger excitement is coming upon this photo of the back of my dad pondering at the offerings of Loy Sing butcher and deli, the longest continuous operating Chinese business in North America. All the volunteers there were excited for me, including Charlayne Thornton-Joe, a City of Victoria Councilwoman, who being civic-minded has been taking photos of descendants posing with exhibit photos so I also obliged (featured photo above).


“My late father was short in stature at 5’5” so it is obvious I got my short genes from him whereas my siblings are tall favouring my late mother who at 5’5” was tall for Chinese women of her generation. I recognize my father’s back by his stature, posture, hand gesture, wavy hair and clothing, and my siblings concurred.


This is a satellite museum hence small but apparently a museum of larger scale is being built or has been built in Vancouver.  Will definitely have to find out more.

Stay well,


I absolutely agree with May that the museum is worth a visit. It is relatively small, but chock full of interesting tidbits!


More importantly, visitors are walking in the footsteps of some of the very first Chinese immigrants to Canada. Fan Tan Alley itself had a notorious history as a place where gamblers, seekers of “ladies of the night,” and opium addicts (opium was legal for many years and brought in good tax dollars for the government at the time) congregated. It has long since been opened up as a tourist attraction (locals love it too!) as (one of the ) narrowest streets in Canada.


Just be careful you don’t run into the ghost of Fan Tan Alley!

I was privileged to attend the grand opening of two new exhibits at the Royal British Columbia Museum (RBCM) last Friday, June 10. These are also the last new installations in the current museum, which will close its doors in September, in preparation for the rebuilding of a new exhibition space.


Importantly, both exhibits were actively showing how the RBCM is broadening its points of view and being more inclusive of cultural and ethnic  historic events in British Columbia’s history.


One was entitled Between Us, a series of video portraits of ordinary people during the pandemic. It is a moving and varied album of how individuals, families, and groups of people felt about the various stages of the pandemic; from lock down to the start of opening up. I was proud, as a member of the RBCM publishing Board, to have had a tangential role in getting this important retrospective to the museum.


The other was entitled Broken Promises, which tells the story of 7 Japanese Canadian families who were interned during WW II. We can see how their lives, livelihoods, and families were disrupted, disregarded, and sometimes destroyed. War is a terrible thing; it make enemies of our friends, and the innocent suffer injustice. Shouldn’t this be a lesson the world should have learned by now?

This is how the exhibit entitled Between Us is described on the RBCM website:

“On March 14, 2020, at the outset of a global pandemic, Canadian artist Adad Hannah took to the streets of Vancouver to record this pivotal moment in time. Over the span of a year, he created 237 video portraits of everyday people that capture our heart, our solidarity, and our resilience.


“This exhibition from the Royal BC Museum presents our shared experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic through a series of video portraits.


“Hannah’s series captures the trajectories of our experiences, from the first weeks of uncertainty in our homes, to the societal ruptures brought to the fore by the Black Lives Matter movement, to our hesitant and choreographed returns to work and school, all the way through to the vaccine rollout.


“With individual sound compositions that can be uplifting, unsettling, or serene, alongside personal narratives from his sitters, Hannah’s series personifies our varied emotional journeys.


The Artist

“Adad Hannah creates serial artworks in installation, video, and photography. He draws upon the history of early photography and cinema to situate and examine media’s role in art.


For this exhibition, Hannah worked with composers Brigitte Dajczer and Daniel Ingram to create the individual soundscapes for each video tableau-vivant.

Adad Hannah’s video portraits


Broken Promises is described this way on the RBCM website:

“In 1942, the Government of Canada detained and interned some 21,000 people of Japanese descent living in British Columbia. Within a year, the government authorized the sale of their belongings, leaving Japanese Canadians with nothing. When the internment era ended in 1949, those who had been detained found their homes, farms, businesses, vehicles, pets, and personal items were gone.


“Broken Promises is dedicated to revealing the history of the Japanese Canadian dispossession and the impact that period of injustice continues to have. An exhibition of the Landscapes of Injustice project, in partnership with the Nikkei National Museum and the Royal BC Museum, Broken Promises is a story of the violation of human and civil rights, the generational trauma caused by mass displacement, and the strength and resilience of the Japanese Canadian community.  


“Landscapes of Injustice is a research project based out of the University of Victoria, with collaborators contributing from across Canada. Including a team of researchers, community leaders, elders, archivists, and teachers, Landscapes of Injustice is dedicated to revealing the history of the Japanese Canadian dispossession.

Landscapes of Injustice Exhibition

I was thrilled to read this story about crafting in the June 6th edition of the digital Smithsonian Magazine.


“Craft, defined as skill and experience in relation to making objects, was not always heralded as high art. Art objects, including quilting, knitting, crocheting, embroidery, needlework, basket weaving, ceramics and glassblowing, were historically relegated to low art made predominantly by women.” wrote Shantay Robinson, in the Smithsonian Magazine.  


“A new exhibition at The Renwick Gallery, part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, entitled This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World , shows that “Craft today is as much about protective masks, protest banners, and humble mugs, about cherished traditions passed down, about the personal experience of making, as it is about hanging in the hallowed halls of art museums,” Nora Atkinson, Renwick Gallery’s curator-in-charge.”


What was most interesting to me is that the exhibition showed how artists used craft as a form of activism, highlighting “… craft’s ability to spark essential conversations about race, gender, and representation.” The Renwick Gallery is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the nation’s preeminent museum dedicated to American craft, notes Robinson.

This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, at The Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC

But even though cross-border travel has opened up, not everyone can fly across the country to attend an art installation in the United States capital.


Closer to home, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV) opened a new exhibition last weekend, at an open house June 11-12, entitled Adorned. From the photos on Facebook, many of the “adornments” include beaded, sewn, embroidered, and woven materials, all hand crafted. Can’t wait to go see it in person!


According to the AGGV website, this is “A show of visual bravura, this group exhibition presents ways and wills to be adorned and embellished with cultural traditions and a forecast of futurisms. Mavericks of design and radical thinking, these artists convey knowledge of material to weave, rethink, reshape, remix, collect, collage, splice and mend to produce original works of art in fashion.”


“The thin line between art and fashion is blown wide open in Adorned, a new group exhibit at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Adorned officially opens its five-month run at the Moss Street gallery on Saturday [June 11, 2022]… The gallery’s chief curator, Jaimie Isaac, who is a member of Manitoba’s Sagkeeng First Nation, created Adorned with cultural exploration in mind, so it’s fitting that interdisciplinary artists from as far away as Toronto and Yukon are participating.” Mike Devlin Jun 9, 2022 5:01 AM in “Critic’s Choice” Times Colonist 

Adorned, at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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