Chinese Canadian Museum Finds a Historic Permanent Home
Vancouver Chinatown’s Barbecue Meats Protest, 1970s, an interactive and immersive paper shadow exhibit display produced by Mere Phantoms, part of the A Seat at the Table exhibition

Chinese Canadian Museum Finds a Historic Permanent Home

by Robin Laurence

British Columbia is set to welcome the Chinese Canadian Museum to a permanent location in the historic Wing Sang Building in Vancouver’s Chinatown. A recent announcement from the BC government confirmed its commitment of $27.5 million to support the acquisition of the building, along with its planning and operations. The museum is scheduled to open in its new home in summer 2023.

In conversation with Preview, Grace Wong, chair of the Chinese Canadian Museum Society of British Columbia, said that the idea of an exhibiting institution that shared the province-wide history, contributions and cultural heritage of Chinese Canadians had been floated for years by various interested groups. The independent non-profit society formally came together in March 2020, following a commitment from the provincial government in 2017 to establish a Chinese Canadian Museum. Even before securing a permanent location, the Chinese Canadian Museum has been creating public programs and temporary exhibitions in collaboration with other cultural institutions. These include the award-winning show A Seat at the Table in the Hon Hsing Building in Vancouver and the recently opened First Steps in Victoria’s Fan Tan Alley. 

Recounting the search for a permanent home, Wong lauds the “amazing match” of the museum with the oldest structure in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The Wing Sang, at 51 East Pender Street, was built by prominent Vancouver resident Yip Sang, with construction beginning in 1888. In 2004, it was acquired by another prominent Vancouver resident – businessman, philanthropist and art collector Bob Rennie – who carefully restored and renovated the heritage-designated property to house a private art museum and offices (now slated to move to different quarters). “Our family’s duty to 51 East Pender has always been to be a good custodian,” Rennie has said. “We are honoured and excited to have [it] now celebrated as home to the Chinese Canadian Museum.”

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