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A history in making

sikh-projectBe part of the projects that aim to protect BC’s South Asian especially Sikh community history

The province of British Columbia is the most ethnically diverse province in Canada and welcomes nearly 40,000 new immigrants as permanent residents every year. But the new wave of immigrants and young generation is rarely aware of the history and struggle their ancestors went through to be part of Canada’s society. There are hundreds of places and many stories of historical significance that have not been recorded at one single place.

Royal BC Museum and Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley have launched two important projects to preserve this history — the South Asian Heritage project and Punjabi Legacy project. The most special thing about both these projects is that you do not need to be a historian or an expert to participate. If you know a place or a story associated with the history of the South Asian Canadian community in B.C. that is important to you or your community, you can tell them. If selected it can become part of a memory that will be shared with the generations to come.

South Asian Heritage Project

Under this project the British Columbians are invited to nominate a place of historic importance. Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services Amrik Virk recently made the announcement with representatives from the Royal BC Museum, and Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley inviting South Asians to nominate a historic place.

Chair of the advisory committee and evaluation team for the South Asian Canadian Historic Places Project, Balbir Gurm  says, “We are inviting South Asian Canadians who have ancestral connections to India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, to think of what places in BC have historical significance. Once nominated these places will be evaluated by a team that includes community and academic expertise.  Historic places of the highest significance will be considered for official recognition by the Government of British Columbia and if recognized, will be placed on the BC Register of Historic Places and the Canadian Register of Historic Places:www.historicplaces.ca.”

Final decisions will be made in early 2017.

You can Nominations can be made and more information can be made online at: http://www.heritagebc.ca.

Sites don’t have to be grand, or even very old. They can range from buildings, monuments, cemeteries and parks to entire neighbourhoods or districts, and abandoned sites that once stood, but have now been reclaimed by nature.

In January, the Province formally recognized 21 historic places of significance to Chinese Canadians. “This project is very similar to that of Chinese heritage places project. They created a map of the places of importance and write ups. We too want something similar,” says Ghurm.

“Punjabi Canadians have contributed to making B.C. the wonderful province it is today.  We are thankful that the government has recognized South Asians as a significant fabric of the Canadian society and the importance of including our history in B.C.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the community to recognize historical places of significance from the South Asian perspective,” she says.

Royal BC Museum, chief operating officer and deputy CEO, Angela Williams  says, “Being a partner in this project, of identifying places of historic significance for South Asian communities, is just the latest way the Royal BC Museum is helping preserve, explore and share our province’s multicultural heritage.

Punjabi Legacy Project

The Royal BC Museum, in partnership with the Centre for Indo Canadian Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) and through collaboration with regional institutions, has established seven community consultations throughout the province to gather feedback from the Punjabi community, a pioneer group that has made a significant impact on the province’s cultural, economic and social history.

These consultations are being organized in Abbotsford, Prince George, Vancouver, Surrey, Golden, Kelowna and Duncan. The consultations are the first step in the creation of a provincial Punjabi legacy project that preserves and shares community history. In fact, the consultations invite attendees to suggest what this legacy project might look like and include.

Gurm says in these consultations people are invited to discuss things in Punjabi culture that are important and should be preserved. “We invite community for this project and ask what does average person want? We have table a set up with no more than 10 people. We ask three questions from everyone.”

These questions are:

1) What significance stories and events best convey the history of the Punjabis in BC?

2) What are the kinds of things like artefacts, archives, documents costumes, photos, stories are important to preserve for our future generation?

3) Do you have any ideas on how this legacy project can make this Punjabi history available to the general public and students. — social media, displays.

The consultations will also inform the Museum’s long-term planning for research, collections, temporary and permanent exhibitions and learning outcomes. What the Learning team discovers at these sessions will help guide the creation of online multicultural content for schools, linked to the new curriculum.


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