The Chinese faces of the Cariboo gold rush are on display in the Middle Kingdom.
Canada's Governor General David Johnston was at the Guangdong Museum of Chinese Nationals Residing Abroad to officially open Barkerville Historic Town's massive photographic exhibit entitled 'Who Am I? - Bridging the Pacific from Guangdon to Barkerville and Back'.
The exhibit opening was also attended by Guangdong's governor Zhu Xiaodan, underscoring the importance of this moment in history for both communities.
"The bilingual exhibit consists of 60 panels of photographs and stories of early Chinese pioneers taken from the Barkerville archives, as well as an innovative and interactive television/iPad display of over 1,300 photos," said Barkerville CEO Judy Campbell and exhibit curator Bill Quackenbush in a joint statement sent from China. "Visitors to the exhibit will have the opportunity to 'swipe' through historic photographs and potentially identify their ancestors who came to Barkerville during the gold rush."
The majority of Chinese sojourners to the Cariboo in that era came from the province of Guangdong.
Barkervilles extensive historic photographs, featuring many from the Chow Dong Hoy collection, are a rich catalogue of the Chinese population in Barkerville, and a testament to the significant contributions they made to the success of the town, said Quackenbush.
The exhibit will also be part of an ongoing research project in partnership with Wuyi University in Jiangmen.
B.C.'s minister responsible for tourism, Prince George MLA Shirley Bond, said the developing relationship with Guangdong is the spearhead of a general economic connection forming between Canada and China on the whole.
This exhibit not only lays the foundation for increased research, collaboration and cultural exchange between the Guangdong Museum and Barkerville, it also sets the stage for greater tourism activity for Barkerville, Bond said. Barkervilles Chinatown, Chinese cemetery and extensive collection of documents and photographs now comprise the largest collection of Chinese buildings and artifacts in North America. With collections like these and rising tourism numbers generally from China, I think we can expect to see a lot more tourism activity for Barkerville.
Bond said B.C. was already China's favourite tourist destination in Canada, and in 2012 the numbers increased more than 19 per cent with signs of upward momentum. It has been only three years that Canada was given "Approved Destination Status" by the Chinese government, allowing potential waves of visitors in the future.
To that end, said Bond, the provincial government invested $20,000 in the 'Who Am I?' exhibit to foster more relations with the Guangdong region specifically.