BCHF News Exhibition: The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act

Exhibition: The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act

On July 1—exactly 100 years after the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act became law—the new Chinese Canadian Museum in Vancouver will open the doors on this major, national exhibition: The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act.

In 2020, the BCHF awarded Catherine Clement $4,000 from its Centennial Legacy Award for the project.

About the exhibit:

This is the story of a mostly forgotten period in Canadian history, and one of the most tragic.

This will be an unflinching look at a period and a history that targeted a single community.

This is a story of loss and despair, and of courage and perseverance despite incredible odds. This story can now be told through the voluminous paper trail it left behind … and that bears witness to a dark past.

The stories the Museum has recorded absorbed hundreds of hours of original research. Catherine Clement and her team scoured the pages of old Chinese and English newspapers, sifted through clan society archives, examined personal correspondence, culled through newly released government records, and tapped the memories of hundreds of families across every region of Canada.

This long paper trail is culminating in a rare, once-in-a-century exhibition that will:

  • Showcase the largest collection of crowdsourced early Head Tax and other Chinese “identity and control” documents ever displayed.
  • Unveil newly-discovered stories that powerfully and sometimes hauntingly illustrate the impact of the Exclusion years on the lives of individuals.
  • Enable visitors to explore objects that have been lost from view for 100 years.
  • Allow visitors to get a sense of the breadth and depth of a “surveillance and documentation system” like no other in Canada — created to target a single community.
  • And help all Canadians to remember and pay tribute to those who lived through the lonely, isolating and uncertain years of exclusion. 

Get tickets:

The exhibition will be located in the Chinese Canadian Museum in the historic Wing Sang Building in Vancouver’s Chinatown. The Museum will host the exhibition for a year. Tickets will be available through the Chinese Canadian Museum at the beginning of June.