Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chop Suey Stories: The Peace Region Chinese Community memories

Our next group of posts will be featuring stories and snippets that have been gathered as a result of our current exhibit: Chop Suey on the Prairies.

From the Peace River Record Gazette, May 27, 1938:

Chong Had Birthday - and Celebrated

"Friday, May 20, was Chong's birthday. Although Chong was born in China a considerable number of years ago, he is certain he has folded back at least forty years of his sojurn on earth, half of which has been spent in Canada, and six years in Peace River.
Chong figured his age this year at forty, as that was the number of his friends, who as his guests, sat down to a very elaborately arranged and enticingly prepared birthday dinner at the Chong Café. Next year Chong expects to celebrate his fiftieth birthday, and plans on having fifty guests.
U. Adams as toastmaster very fittingly described the varied handicaps encountered by Chong since making Canada his home, and his method of overcoming those handicaps.
Radio station CFGP, the Voice of the Mighty Peace, made everyone assembled prick up their ears when felicitations for Chong came over the air. At this stage "Grandpa" who is plenty tough, expressed the hope that his friend Chong will continue for many years and not run out of birthdays. All assembled agreed that Chong is a jolly good fellow."

If you wish to contribute your own story to the growing narrative of the Chinese community in the Peace Region, you can comment here on our blog, come in and see the exhibit or contact the museum at museum@peaceriver or 780-624-4261.

Friday, March 11, 2011

EXHIBIT OPENING: Chop Suey on the Prairies

We are inviting everyone to visit the Museum tomorrow between 4 and 6:30 to attend the launch of our new exhibit: "Chop Suey on the Prairies".
Come view this neat exhibit celebrating the history of Chinese Restaurants and the contribution of Chinese Albertans.
TJ's Restaraunt will be catering the event and Jeff McCann will be giving a Tai Chi demonstration.

March 12 between 4 & 6:30 pm
at the
Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre
10302 99th Street

Please call 624-4261 for more information.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

NEW EXHIBITS: Cabinets of Curiosity

The museum is changing it up a bit this year and offering our visitors a new experience. You get to explore the collections yourself instead of us choosing what you see in an exhibit.
Coinciding with a collections inventory, we are creating Cabinets of Curiosities. Each of these cabinets will feature a different type of artifact from our collection. Right now for example, you can see fossils, rocks, lanterns and lamps, sports equipment, shoes and cameras!

This is a new concept for our museum, but in the context of museums in general, this is the oldest idea in the book. Museums actually stemmed from and were made up by Cabinets of Curiosities. In the 16th century, it became a badge of honour and importance for the rich, the powerful, and the noble to travel and collect items that were weird and wonderful for their own cabinets of curiosity. Collecting was popular long before cabinets of curiosities were created, but it was in the 16th century that it became popular to exhibit those collections.

Unlike the museums of today, not just anyone could visit these cabinets. The owners made the decision on who to let in and oftentimes it was limited to their friends and others of power and nobility.

There was no order to these cabinets; instead, all of the curiosities were placed together, on shelves, on top of each other, hung on the wall or from the ceiling. There was also little discrimination on which objects were placed in the cabinets, though the weirder the better seemed to have been the rule. They included collections of natural history, ethnography, geology, historic and religious relics, art and antiquities objects. Some of these objects were authentic, while others were forgeries. One could find books, paintings and sculptures amongst the pressed leaves, shells, stuffed aligators and unicorn tusks (actually it was the tusk of a narwhal, but that was not known at the time).

In the 18th century, and even moreso in the 19th century, trends began to change. These collections of weird and wonderful objects began to be gifted to public institutions, which gave rise to the modern concept of a museum. It was these cabinets that served as the first collections of some of the world’s earliest museums. The new trend, then was to invite everyone in, even lower class people, to learn about history and nature but also for fun.

We all collect something, though you may not have set out to start your collection, it still exists. Is it cook books, serving platters, coins, stamps, rocks or shoes? Come and tell us what it is that you collect and see our modern day version of a Cabinet of Curiosity, then give us your opinions on your favourite objects and what sorts of exhibits you would like to see in the future.