British Columbia·Photos

Fraser Canyon museum awarded for preserving early history of Chinese Canadians in B.C.

Lorna Fandrich and her husband established the Lytton Chinese History Museum in May 2017.

Chinese History Museum in Lytton, B.C., recognized for its archives of the Chinese Canadian community

The Chinese history museum in Lytton, B.C., is the recipient of this year's Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline Chung Prize for Chinese Canadian Community Archiving, which is awarded by the Vancouver-based Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. (Lytton Chinese History Museum/Facebook)

A museum located on B.C.'s historic Gold Rush Trail has received an award in recognition of its rich collection of artifacts showcasing the history of Chinese communities in the region and beyond.

The Vancouver-based Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. declared the Lytton Chinese History Museum this year's winner of the Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline Chung Prize for Chinese Canadian Community Archiving.

The award is named after a Victoria retired doctor and his wife who collected 25,000 items currently housed at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, including items showcasing the history of  the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Founded in May 2017 by Lorna Fandrich and her husband, the museum in Lytton sits on the site of a former Chinese joss house that was granted official heritage status by Heritage B.C. in February 2016.

The joss house — a Chinese temple or community hall — was built in 1881 and torn down in 1928. The land where the structure had stood was vacant until being purchased in 1980 by Fandrich, who decided to build a museum honouring the local Chinese community after she read an old newspaper article about her property.    

In this undated photo, the large wooden building, bottom left, is the former joss house, which was demolished in 1928 and replaced in 2017 by the Lytton Chinese History Museum. (Lorna Fandrich/Lytton Chinese History Museum)

The Chinese Canadian Historical Society commends the museum's 200 exhibits that tell stories about the B.C. gold rush, railway construction through the Fraser Canyon, cultural customs and practices and the hurdles faced by Chinese labourers from 1858 to 1928. 

A joss house is a Chinese temple or community hall from the late 19th to early 20th centuries. The undated photo was taken inside a joss house in Victoria, B.C. (Lorna Fandrich/Lytton Chinese History Museum)

The museum is also praised for its online database of nearly 1,600 images of artifacts and photos collected across the province. 

"[The online database] has been noted as a valuable resource by scholars and has drawn interest from around the world," the society says on its website. 

In this undated photo, a white boss supervises Chinese workers clearing and grading the railway's roadbed. (Lorna Fandrich)

Fandrich says she's glad her work is being recognized.

"The most important thing, I believe, is it [the prize] gives me another layer of credibility with the Chinese community," she said Wednesday to Shelley Joyce, the host of CBC's Daybreak Kamloops.

Lorna Fandrich, the co-founder of the Lytton Chinese History Museum, says the Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline Chung Prize for Chinese Canadian Community Archiving. (Submitted by Lorna Fandrich)

The Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline Chung Prize was previously awarded in 2018 to the Chinese Canadian Military Museum in Vancouver's Chinatown.

A school textbook of Chinese language studies published by Shanghai's Commercial Press in 1912, as featured in the online database of the Lytton Chinese History Museum. (Reg Beck/Lytton Chinese History Museum)
A rusted opium can featured in the image database of the Lytton Chinese History Museum. Chinese work camps had high frequencies of opium and alcohol paraphernalia. Often attributed to recreational use, a Stanford University study found evidence the substances may have been used as remedies for work-related injuries, infections and the physical and psychological pains of the workers’ taxing manual labour. (Al Dreyer/Lytton Chinese History Museum)

The Lytton museum is normally open from May to September every year, Wednesday to Monday. This year, it will open on May 22.

With files from Daybreak Kamloops, Belle Puri and Alex Migdal

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