UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 09 | May
Priceless collection on display in Library
Artifacts provide snapshot of Chinese immigrant experience
The permanent home of the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H.
and Reading Room has opened in Main Library.
Officially designated a national treasure by the
Export Review Board, the Chung Collection comprises 25,000 items which reveal
new perspectives on Canada's colourful history and the profound experiences
of Chinese immigrants.
Valued in the millions of dollars, it is described as priceless by archivists
"I'm pleased that my collection remains intact and is presented so
respectfully," says Dr. Wallace Chung, a vascular surgeon and retired member of
UBC's Faculty of Medicine.
The exhibit centrepiece is a four-metre-long builder's model of the Empress of
Asia, which Chung refurbished in exquisite detail in a 4,000-hour labour
More than 1,000 items were selected for display in the carefully restored room.
These include vibrant tourist and immigration posters, the diary of cabinet
minister Hector Langevin in which he identifies Burrard Inlet as the western
terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway and a photograph of the first Chinese
person born in Canada.
Chung's lifelong obsession and global odyssey began with a young boy's
fascination. A poster of the CPR luxury ocean liner, Empress of Asia,
the pride of Canada's maritime fleet, hung in his father's Victoria tailor
shop. The vessel had carried his mother from China.
From collecting memorabilia, Chung moved on to first editions of Cook's and
Vancouver's voyages and the remnants of the life and times of nation builders,
famous or forgotten, as well as visionaries and ordinary workers.
"This generous gift provides an exciting opportunity for the public to access
many virtually unknown but important stories and unforgettable artifacts," says
university librarian Catherine Quinlan.
For the past two years designers and other experts have pored over rare books
and eclectic items relating to the CPR, the Asian experience in North
America and West Coast history and exploration.
"My husband continues to add to the collection and our family is delighted that
future generations will understand the struggles and joys of those who have
come before," says Dr. Madeline Chung, a retired obstetrician.