This article was originally published via Simon Fraser University News (sfu.ca/sfunews). It is republished here with permission.
A museum exhibition partly designed by students in the Master of Digital Media program traces the stories, struggles and experiences of Chinese-Canadians immigrants to B.C.
The Museum of Vancouver’s newest exhibition A Seat at the Table: Chinese Immigration and British Columbia, which opened to the public on Nov. 19, 2020, “explores historical and contemporary stories of Chinese Canadians in B.C. and their struggles for belonging. It looks to food and restaurant culture as an entry point to feature stories that reveal the great diversity of immigrant experience and of the communities immigrants develop.”
The Master of Digital Media is offered through Centre for Digital Media, a unique four-way education partnership between SFU, the University of B.C., the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Students were tasked with translating the history and experiences of Chinese-Canadian immigrants into interactive and immersive learning opportunities. Eight student-teams helped deliver the digital components for the exhibits.
Denise Fong, research director at UBC Initiative for Student Teaching and Research in Chinese Canadian Studies, says the project is the second time the initiative has partnered with the CDM team to produce immersive new media installations on Chinese Canadian history.
“The added challenge to this year's projects was the requirement to include trilingual content,” Fong says. “We were very impressed by the ingenuity and passion the student teams demonstrated through their work -- we were especially impressed by their ability to bring history alive through the many creative solutions (and language skills) they brought to the table."
As an introduction to the exhibition, the work included an animated visualization that encompasses seven eras of Chinese migration to British Columbia. Visitors then learn about the jagged history of Chinese-Canadian immigration by navigating a virtual pop-up book that tells the story of one of the 300 Canadian-born Chinese soldiers who volunteered to fight in the First World War.
To encourage visitors to sample the dialects spoken in China today, one team developed an app that features more than 30 different Chinese dialects saying the phrase “Have you eaten yet?”, a common Chinese phrase that is used as a greeting similar to “How are you?” in English. Another team built an app that houses high-quality 3D scans of key artifacts connected to the history of early Chinese immigrants to British Columbia that can’t be displayed in the exhibition due to size, location or condition.
Viviane Gosselin, director of collections and exhibitions at Museum of Vancouver, says, "We have been so impressed by the assiduity, flexibility, and high calibre of the MDM-student cohort that collaborated with us on developing a series of digital products for the exhibition A Seat at the Table: Chinese Immigration and British Columbia. Their animated maps, augmented reality storytelling and 360-scans of our artifacts help us address the key themes of belonging, racism, and resilience in novel and meaningful ways. Their work is contributing significantly to the interpretive program, and as a result it will help visitors gain a greater appreciation of the contributions that Chinese migrants and their descendants have made to the province."
To see all the exhibits, which are on view until January 2022, visit https://museumofvancouver.ca/a-seat-at-the-table-mov to reserve your ticket. For those who prefer a remote experience, the museum offers virtual guided group tours.