Canadians in China – Old Photographs from Sichuan 1892-1952

2017, Banner Stand/Travelling Exhibit, History, The Cheng Yu Tang East Asian Library Richard Charles Lee Canada
archival photos, Canada, Chengdu, Chengtu, China, Chinese interest, collecting, history, medicine, missionaries, photography, Sichuan, travelling
About This Project

Date: October 23, 2017 – November 24, 2017

Venue: The Cheng Yu Tang East Asian Library Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library – map

Project Members: Sean Xue Yuan Li and Jessica Lin Zhang


This exhibit of archived photographs documents the lives and contributions of Canadian missionary physicians in the Chinese province of Sichuan from the years 1892 to 1952. The Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library aims to host the exhibition for the opportunity to introduce the work in progress they have been involved in on this topic’s archival research and collections management. The library hopes to focus attention on this topic and open up discussion for expanding its research opportunities.


The exhibit is a gift to Canadians in which the Canadian School Alumni Association and the Alumni of West China University Canada Chapter would like to hold an annual exhibition to be held in the month of October. The exhibition is designed for Canadians in honour of those Canadians who contributed to the medical and educational modernization of China, leaving a lasting friendship between Canada and China.


The exhibit will take place in the Fall of 2017 at the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library and the Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library. This is a joint venue exhibit between the two libraries where each library will display the poster banners. The poster banners will be placed accordingly in open spaces and along the walls of both libraries.


The archival photo project was originally initiated by a descendant of one of the missionary families, the late Bob Edmonds, and a former Canadian diplomat. The project was then taken forward by a team from the Sichuan provincial government where a group of Chinese historians, artists, and corporate donors had worked together to collect and curate the current photo exhibition in 2007. The banners of this exhibit were printed in Canada and are kept under the care of the Canadian School Alumni Association and the Alumni of West China University Canada Chapter. Hana Kim, director of the CYT East Asian Library and Jack Leong, director of the RCL Canada-Hong Kong Library has agreed to collaborate to host the exhibition in both libraries.


The class project was introduced to Sean in September 2016, and Jessica joined in January 2017. The planning and research process to locate a suitable venue for hosting the photo project took six months. We met Hana and Jack to confirm the venue of the two libraries in March 2017. Firm dates have been established and the exhibition will start with an official Opening Reception on October 23, 2017 and end on November 24, 2017. Exhibit layout design, insurance application, invitations, promotions, media release, and Opening Reception preparations will be completed throughout April to August. September will be the month to finalize all details and exhibit installation is to happen on October 19, 2017.


The exhibition of Canadians in China: Old Photographs from Sichuan 1892-1952 is composed of 67 poster banners that display an expansive collection of archival photographs covering 100 years of Canada-China relations that had taken place in Sichuan, China. The poster banners measure 86cm wide and 216cm high. Each banner has black-and-white photographs of the Canadians that are paired with descriptions and explanatory text panels. There are also maps and colored photographs of contemporary subjects displayed on a few banners. There is a chance that related objects like medical instruments may be exhibited as well. At the opening reception, speakers will talk about the exhibit’s content and subject matter. These types of presentation will present visitors with a highly visual presentation to explain the historical subject matter. This is a text-heavy exhibition where visitors will interact with the exhibit by going up close to each poster banner to read and digest the information being provided. The visual nature of the exhibition communicates the theme that archived photos can be pieced together to make sense of history.


Much of our marketing campaign will be provided by the East Asian Library and the Canada-Hong Kong Library organizers who had promoted previous exhibits on their listservs. The exhibition will also be promoted digitally through various media outlets, social media platforms, and websites. Paper brochures and invites will be created, sent by mail and also distributed to recreational and cultural centers, medical or historical institutions on and off campus, on community bulletin boards, the UofT Chinese Students Associations, and other related clubs or groups. WeChat, a social media application will be used to promote the exhibit to Chinese users. Banners and posters will be placed on allotted wall spaces inside Robarts.


Though this exhibition has yet to be executed in the Fall of 2017, the exhibition aims to reach a diverse audience including but not limited to students, faculty members, family and friends of the university, missionaries, foreign visitors, and the general public. It is hoped that this exhibition will attract about 400-800 visitors over the span of 5 weeks.


We would like to thank the Canadian School Alumni Association and the Alumni of West China University Canada Chapter for the opportunity to help carry out their exhibition. We also express our heartfelt gratitude to Hana Kim, director, and Lucy Gan, librarian specialist, at the East Asian Library, and Jack Leong, director, at the Canada-Hong Kong Library for taking on the mission to actualize the exhibition and providing us with their kind support every step of the way. Lastly, we would like to specifically thank Marion Walker, Dave Walmsley, Karen Minden, and Dorie Preston; the exhibit’s main organizers had welcomed us with open arms. Thank you for being so helpful and so patient upon waiting in anticipation to hear our replies. This project had brought us the most incredible experience in exhibition training and it would not have been possible without all those who were involved. Thank you all so much!