Social history, personal history: Vancouver's Chinatown project
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Audio recording of Dr. Imogene Lim's November 1999 presentation to the Nanaimo Historical Society about a Vancouver Chinatown excavation project, which was the first urban historical archaeology ever conducted in the city. In 1996, Lim, an anthropology instructor at VIU, participated in archaeological excavations at two sites in Vancouver's Chinatown. The first site was a parking lot at 34 West Pender Street which was formerly part of the area of Chinatown referred to as Canton Alley. The second site was at 71-77 East Pender Street (which was formerly known as Dupont Street), the previous location of a Gim Lee Yuen Company building, used for commercial, retail, and residential purposes. In this talk, Lim explains her motivations and involvement in the project, including the connections to her own personal history. She outlines the project's early days, the excavation process, and some of the artifacts that were found. She addresses several misconceptions commonly held about Chinatowns, including the existence of secret, underground tunnels and the prevalence of Chinese prostitution and other illegal activities. Lim explains the role archaeological investigations can have to help show recent Asian immigrants the early history of the Chinese in British Columbia, a story which is not commonly presented and can be difficult to study. She also details how the project can help to educate the wider public about Chinatown's development in Vancouver and about Chinese Canadians' contribution to the city and to the province.
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