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The Historical Chinese Language Materials in British Columbia Database ( www.hclmbc.org加華文獻聚珍 ) : Challenges… Yuen, Eleanor Aug 25, 2009

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The Historical Chinese Language Materials in British Columbia Database ( Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking Eleanor Yuen University of British Columbia Asian Library, Vancouver, Canada  Chinese settlement in British Columbia, Canada dates back to 1858 after the gold rush in San Francisco sent the first Chinese north to the Cariboo area. Over the last 145 years, the population of ethnic Chinese residing in Greater Vancouver alone has grown to 342,665 (2001 Census). The steady and rapid growth of Chinese population in British Columbia and indeed in Canada as a whole since 1967, when a point system based on the merit of skills of applicants became part of Canadian immigration policy, has brought about a renaissance in Chinese-Canadian studies. However, Chinese language materials deposited in public archives, museums, university archives, and in private hands are generally not well documented or even made known for easy public access. The uniqueness of the archival materials, the data quality and volume of primary materials preserved, the continuity of the content and the potential to link the data to other information call for detailed inventory and evaluation of the collections.1 Yet documents cited in published bibliographies make few references to these collections.2 As a result, the history of the province as reflected in these materials has not been well established. The urgency and timeliness of the initiation in 2000 of the project described in this paper was underlined by some recurrent phenomena in the previous decade. With the gradual transition of the generation born before the 1920s to senior homes (and their eventual passing away), personal effects, business records and even documents related to clan associations and other public bodies were under threat, as never before, of being damaged beyond rescue or destroyed altogether. In a number of known cases, these materials were disposed of in the process of house cleaning.  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Objective of the Project This project is built on a vision of access and preservation. To support educational needs at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and in response to the growing interest of researchers and the community in general, the Asian Library and the Centre for Chinese Research at UBC as well as the David See-Chai Lam Centre for International Communication at Simon Fraser University collaborated in 2000 to develop a database of historical Chinese language materials in BC. A call for province-wide preservation of historical materials was made again in 2001, and concerns about the disappearance of these archival materials and artifacts were articulated. The Asian Library itself does not intend to collect documents, only to make their existence known. Its aim is to develop a comprehensive inventory, searchable on the Web by author, title, holding location, original location, keyword, file source, notes and record ID in traditional Chinese characters, English and Pinyin. Archival materials are accepted if the owner prefers the Asian Library to be the permanent location of their collection. Recommendations on options for preservation are offered so that information is not lost with the memory of those involved or consequent to the physical decay of materials. As one of the objectives of the project is to teach students and researchers how to find and use primary sources, the launch of this finding list on the Internet successfully provided access to these otherwise “out-of-reach” materials. Different primary source Web sites for Asian history were investigated.3 Methodology of research and definition of project On the basis of the history of major waves of Chinese settlements across the province, the project identified a total of 29 resource centres along the Gold Rush Trail, the Canadian Pacific Railway, cities and towns on the east coast of Vancouver Island, as well as the Fraser Valley which were listed in the British Columbia Archival Information Network. Preliminary verification of the nature of the archival holdings described in the British Columbia Archival Union List was also made. Apparently, some resource centres collect  2  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  materials that span more than one wave of settlement, while others have unique coverage of a particular era. Initial interviews by telephone, e-mail and fax were followed by site visits. In turn, trained students of the History Department and Master of Arts, Asia Pacific Policy Studies Program (MAPPS) of Institute of Asian Research, UBC would evaluate and record on site the Chinese language historical materials of the resource centre, using a worksheet installed on a laptop computer. Given the local context and content of the materials, established subject authorities such as LCSH or Fung Ping Shan Subject Headings were not appropriate for this purpose. Instead, keywords taken from the “scope /content” field were added to improve ease of approval. Presently, the technical support team of David Lam Centre for International Communications, Simon Fraser University is still working to upgrade the scope/content field to be searchable so that all fields in the database are indexed for searching. To date, over 11,000 records from 11 archives, museums and libraries have been either exported or created from scratch and incorporated in the database. Over 80% of these records are now available for free search online for the first time. The British Columbia Archives and the Royal British Columbia Museum on Vancouver Island agreed to be the next stops for the project team. Materials added to the database on  includes  Chinese  language  manuscripts,  newspapers,  correspondence, genealogical and family records, business transaction records, association records, certificates, receipts, textbooks, photographs with captions in Chinese, catalogues, books and journals on Chinese-Canadian history and other documents. Every effort has been made to ensure coverage of the major collections, at the cost of mixing both archival and library materials. The definition of scope of coverage, in particular, would complicate the design of the worksheet and the management of the database. Simply put, the benefits of following traditional MARC format and AACR II rules had to be sacrificed altogether.  3  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Building and maintaining the Web site While the project has been widely and readily supported by organizations and individuals across the province, import of files of different format has still posed technical problems at different stages. A case in point, the comparatively simple task of integrating over 9,000 entries of news clippings, mostly with full text on Microsoft Access 2000, turned out to be a daunting job. Similarly, even with all the ready and timely support from David Lam Centre, SFU, the database maintenance and updates sometimes are very labourintensive and time-consuming. At any rate, luck is certainly required in a successful and cordial collaborative initiative such as this one. Table 1 - Historical Chinese Materials Collections presents all 29 resource centres, identified by period of coverage, description of major collections, format of their records, and whether included in or not. The database runs on MySQL which is Unicode-based, robust and therefore more appropriate than Microsoft Access for Chinese databases with more than 50,000 records. The success in launching this Web page on MySQL pre-empts problems that might arise in exporting Chinese in Big-5 or GB Code on ColdFusion which is used in the UBC Library environment. Initial evaluation suggests that this software might also provide a suitable platform for databases in Japanese, Korean or even some of the South Asian vernaculars. Other language-related challenges are brought about by the dialects: special characters that are only known and used in Say Sap and Sahn Sap continue to bewilder young student assistants who are not able to decipher the dialects in written form. For example, under the custody of Harold Steves was a document with the names of major cities and township of the province transliterated in one of the county dialects in Guangdong and issued by the Chinese Nationalist League for internal use. The transliterations were totally different from Pinyin and Cantonese romanizations which most contemporary Chinese understand.  4  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Comprehensive cross references for popular names (such as Chee Gong Tong, which at different stages was also known as Hung Shun Tong, Hong Men and Chee Gong Dong) can only be properly done with in-depth research. However, the funds raised to hire the student project librarian are not sufficient to support such detailed cataloguing work. From 1875 to 1923, the Government of British Columbia passed sets of laws which discouraged the migration of Chinese to Canada.4 The Chinese who came between the 1850s and 1945 were mostly single males who conducted their lives closely with members of their own clan or social and religious affiliations. Therefore, archival materials kept at the clan associations such as the Chee Gong Tong at Barkerville Historic Town, major businesses such Hong Wo Store at Steveston, and the Parish Church of the Good Shepherd were of paramount significance in providing a different perspective of the history of the province during those difficult times. For immigrants fortunate enough to have had families in Canada, family collections are bodies of unique materials, which document not only the history of the family but also that of the neighbourhood—sometimes that of the province as a whole. Guided by this unique pattern of the social life of Chinese settlers at different eras, pioneer families were identified and interviewed with a focus on the unique contributions of their ancestors and contemporary members. It should be noted that archival resource materials on low-profile pioneer families were prioritised equally. At this stage, collections featured in the Image Gallery include that of the family of Paul Lin, whose father George Lim Yuen came to British Columbia in 1897 and became the first Chinese Priest-in-Charge of the Parish Church of the Good Shepherd in 1920; the family of Alex Chan, whose grandfather was one of the founding members of the Chinese Empire Reform Association in Canada, incorporated in 1900; of Glen Wong, who joined the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II and whose father established successful businesses both in Nanjing and Vancouver’s Chinatown; of Genda Whalen, who taught Chinese in Vancouver from the 1940s until she retired; of Harold Steves, after whose grandfather the village of Steveston is named. (Steves holds a substantial file on Tung Ling Lam, owner of Hong Wo, the largest department store in Richmond, 1890–1971,  5  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Lum Poy and his family since he came to Canada in 1914, and Eng Sang who was commissioned by the Chinese Nationalist League to oversee communication of the Party’s overseas branches across the province from 1919 to the 1930s. Henry and Victoria Yip donated to the Asian Library family documents and artefacts which supplement the Yip Sang collection in the Vancouver Museum. During site visits to the five pioneer families, it was established that, except for Yip Sang’s collection, the other four collections were never made accessible to anyone outside their own family members. The exhibition of “Three Early Chinese Pioneer Families” mounted by the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver features the families of the Rev. Yu Tan Chan (1863-1948), Hok Yat Louie (1875-1934) and Ron Bick Lee (1892-1994), and it will in time be added to the Image Gallery on the Web site.. While there is no cut-off date for materials deposited in public archives, post-1970 materials in private hands are not sought after at this stage. It was evident that with the change of Canadian immigration policy to accept applicants according to a point system in 1967, there was a mushrooming of Chinese print and electronic media, community, business, cultural and religious associations, records of which are paramount and effective in documenting activities of the Canadian Chinese. Tian argues that in the post1967 period, more and more Chinese went into professional and business occupations and were involved in political, social, cultural, religious and economic activities outside Chinatown. A rich variety of organizations were formed to help them achieve their goals.5 Some of the milestones are the inauguration of Sing Tao Daily in 1983 and Ming Pao ten years later in 1983. As of the year 2000, there were three Chinese radio channels and two television stations targeting audience from the PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In light of the significant demographic growth, coupled with the complexity of their personal lives and social activities as a whole, the Web site lists 75 associations, 117 religious organisations, 3 virtual exhibitions staged in the Image Gallery, as well as links to old and new Chinatowns such as Richmond (which started to bloom after 1987). A special photo exhibition on “A Century of Economic Activities of Ethnic Chinese in  6  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Richmond and Irregular Chinese Migrants in BC” which represents an important facet of Chinese-Canadian history in BC has been added to the “Related Materials” section. The establishment of youth organisations such as the Chinese Overseas Students’ Association of BC in 1970 was a good indicator of changes in the education level of young Chinese in Greater Vancouver after 1967, when Chinese arrived from Hong Kong, China, the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, South America and Africa in very large numbers. In 1971, when the Canadian government introduced its multiculturalism policy which discredited racism in general, the Chinese-Canadian population stood at around 150,000.6 The following year, the inauguration of three flagship community organizations, namely the United Chinese Community Enrichment Services Society (SUCCESS), the Strathcona Employment Outreach Program and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver, marked a significant development in the community. The following 30 years witnessed a flourishing of organisations with members from the same location or country of origin. Others simply share interests in cultural, social, educational, economical, religion, or political matters. Challenges Ahead The current inventory is the first iteration of an ongoing effort. Further partnerships will be forged with pioneer families, clan and community associations, international archives and resource centres with pertinent collections. The Asian Library also plans to work with its collaborators to improve the variant forms of key words for searching the database and will enrich the Web site with relevant materials. With the completion of these milestones, the Library would then focus on fundraising for digitisation, in stages, of the some of the collections. Full text digitisation of Chinese newspapers stays high on the priority list. A case in point, the Asian Library holds one of the two sets of Chinese Times, the oldest Chinese newspaper in the province on microfilm as well as the only remaining hard copy of issues from 1914 to 1992; issues from 1907 to 1913 were unfortunately destroyed. The three major contemporary counterparts of Chinese Times, namely Ming Pao, Sing Tao and  7  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  World Journal, are not viewable or archived online. In 2003, the Library started to acquire 2000–2001 issues of World Journal on CD-ROM, as a tool of preservation. Competition for funding to digitise unique and popular materials such as collections of the pioneer families will surface from time to time. Tough decision will need to be made in the context of promoting and preserving the materials which are at the greatest risk. Over time, application for grants and fundraising will become one of the responsibilities of the author who oversees the content development of the Web site. These concerns could be overwhelming to Japanese, Korean and South Asian language librarians, should any one of them become interested in heading a similar project on their respective language. On the positive note, this project, by and large, is a model for developing and managing archival materials in the other Asian languages covered by our collection development policy. As the project enjoys wider support, more primary materials are being added to the collection. Their display and storage demand energy and time from existing staff. As home to a number of special collections including the well-known Puban Collection, the 1140 volume-strong collection of Chinese rare books, the Jing Yi Zhai Collection, the Swann Collection, the Japanese government publications, among others, the Asian Library has been facing acute space problem. This new special collection, though not as taxing on storage space as other collections in print, still takes up many shelves in the humidity and temperature control vault in the Asian Library. With respect to transnational networking, plans are in place to join the list of RLG Cultural Materials Initiatives and be indexed by portals on Asian themes such as WWWAsia Monitor. The exposure gained in these promotion exercises will translate into networking opportunities. On a local level, networking with clan associations such as Ing Suey Sun Tong Association, the Chinese Benevolent Association of Vancouver, the Canada United Hakka Association and the Chin Wing Chun Tong Society of Canada might very well open up dialogue and cooperation with their counterparts in PRC, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The key to success is probably the identification and winning over, in  8  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  each case, of an agent who is closely associated with the group. The experience in obtaining the annual reports of Lin Si He Tong since its inception in the early 1900s through Paul Lin, whose father was one of the founding members of the clan association, confirmed that personal relationship has a weighty bearing on the success of networking with these local groups. Challenges that librarians, curators and archivists face in transnational networking, in some way are reminiscent of the problems encountered in this project even within British Columbia. Incompatibility of platforms on which different databases reside, coupled with the variant nomenclature used can be overwhelming initially. However, insofar as Chinese overseas studies are regarded as a global issue and the need to link the data to other information is established, plans for transnational networks should be put into place. Conferences such as this one would help to stimulate those interests as well as to provide the venue for potential collaborators to work together with common goals. REFERENCES 1  Norberg, Erik. “Archives, History and Democracy: an International Agenda,” Review of International Affairs, L-LI, (December 1999-January 2000): 1087–88. 2 Poon, M.S. Bibliography on Overseas Chinese, 1900–1980. Hong Kong: Maplebridge Publications, 2002. 3 Yi, Hua. “Using the Internet to teach access to Asian history resources,” Reference Services Review, 30 (1), 2002. 4 Laquian, E., Laquian, A., and McGee, T. The Silent Debate: Asian Immigration, Racism in Canada. Vancouver: Institute of Asian Research, University of British Columbia, 1998. 5 Tian, Guang. Chinese-Canadians, Canadian-Chinese: coping and adapting in North America. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999. 6 Yee, Paul. Salt Water City: An Illustrated History of the Chinese in Vancouver. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1988.  9  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Historical Chinese Materials Collections Archives/Library/Museum  Period Covered  Major Collection  File Format   √  Anglican Church of Canada Anglican Provincial Synod of 1890– British Columbia and Yukon Archives Asian Library, University of British 1900– Columbia Barkerville Historic Town 1860–late 1940 British Columbia Archives Canadian Pacific Railway Archives Chinese Canadian Military Museum 1918–1940 Society Chinese Community Library Services Association Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater 1930– Vancouver Museum and Archives City of Richmond Archives City of Vancouver Archives  In  √ ACCESS  √ Will included May 2003  Menus, brochures or promotional material in Chinese for distribution on the Pacific ships   √  Full-text news clippings of major Chinese newspapers 1999– History room: 1930s – today  √ √  Photos of Chinese Private documents and records regarding pioneer families (Yip Sang family documents and Chinatown artefacts with Chinese  10     be in  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  City of Victoria Archives  1880–1970     Cumberland County Museum Archives Delta Museum & Archives Diocese of British Archives Fort St. James Museum  characters) Photos of Chinese and private documents regarding pioneer families and records    Photos of Chinese working in cannery and households    Columbia  Fort Steele Heritage Town Archives and Library Kamloops Museum and Archives  1880–1889     1800s–1950s      Langley Centennial Museum Lytton Museum and Archives  1999  Multicultural History Society of Ontario Nanaimo Community Archives Nanaimo District Museum  1908–1960  John F. Fee fonds  1 cm of textual records; 7 photographs; 1 sound recording  A few books and journals    Chu Yat Quai Fonds    √  Chinatown Revisited  Quesnel and District Museum 1890–1940 Archives Rare Books and Special Collections, University of British Columbia (Guide to Chinese Canadian History Sources)  ACCESS  √  11  Eleanor Yuen, The HCLMBC: Challenges in Documentation and Transnational Networking  Richmond Public Library  A few books  Royal British Columbia Museum  ACCESS  The United Church of Canada B.C. Conference Archives Vancouver Museum 1890s–1985  Will included May 2003  √ Customized ACCESS file  Vancouver Public Library  Chinese-Canadian History Guide  Vanderhoof Heritage Village 1920 Museum Complex Wells Historical Society Archives 1948–1952  Lee Chong Company fonds  Yale District Historical Society Yale District Historical Society 1900–1950 Museum  √  1880 – 1930 Cheng Foo Yale’s Chinatown  12   √   1 cm of textual record      be in  


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