UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), in partnership with the Paper Trail project team, has launched a digital archival collection of identity papers known as Chinese Immigration (C.I.) certificates created through Canada’s Chinese Immigration Act. Led by Catherine Clement, a community historian and curator based in Vancouver’s Chinatown, The Paper Trail project seeks to commemorate this era of exclusion that was “the darkest and most despairing period in Chinese Canadian history.”
Families have been invited to share scans of their C.I. certificates and details about the individuals who once owned them, which make up the new digital archive.
“This is the third project I’ve worked on under Catherine Clement,” notes the Paper Trail’s archivist June Chow, who has recently completed her Master of Archival Studies degree at the UBC School of Information.
“When [Catherine and June] approached us as a possible home for the digitized collection of Chinese Immigration certificates, I was honoured by the trust they were willing to place in us to house this important resource,” says Krisztina Laszlo, Archivist at UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections.
Each record in the collection includes high quality images of the C.I. certificate’s front and back matter, along with a biographical sketch of the individual based on memories shared by their children and grandchildren. “By making this resource available, we hope to serve the Chinese Canadian community and to honour the individuals and families impacted by policies of systemic racism. “This is difficult history, but a history that must not be forgotten,” says Laszlo.
The digital archive is launched in tandem with the national exhibition curated by Clement titled, The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act, that opens on July 1st, 2023, at the Chinese Canadian Museum in the historic Wing Sang building in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The Paper Trail project is one of numerous efforts and actions across Canada to commemorate 100 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed into law.
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