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Asian Canadian History and Archives

About These Collections

The fonds and collections included here contain the records of Asian peoples that have been received and/or created, collected, maintained, etc. by non-Asian creators during their various colonial trips abroad. Most of the creators found themselves in Asia for reasons such as occupational requirements, religious and educational mission trips, and tourism. Materials include correspondence, diaries, photographs, oral interviews, and more. 

Chinese Materials

Crawford Kilian was born in New York City in 1941 and spent his formative years in Los Angeles and Mexico City. In 1962, he graduated from Columbia University and began service in the US Army. After marrying his wife, the couple moved to North Vancouver, B.C. and, in 1983, they moved again to the Guangzhou province of China, where Crawford taught English. The fonds consists of materials related to his life and work, of which at least one series is dedicated to his time teaching in Guangzhou.

Frank Parish (1824-1906) was a British diplomat in the Consular Department in China from 1844-1852. The fonds consists of a journal from a trip from London to Naples (1840-1843) and letters from Parish to his father during his employment in the Consular Department in China (1844-1852).

George Frederick Turner was born in 1882 and went on to become involved in the construction of new buildings in Peking at the time of the Chinese Revolution (1911-1912). The fonds consists of Turner's handwritten diary—much of which refers to his construction activities and the political events of the time. The first entry is dated November 12-13, 1911 and is addressed to "Mother dearest & all."

James Barclay was born in Scotland in 1903. After receiving his education, he moved to Shanghai, China to work as an engineering assistant. Leaving China in 1928 to reunite with his parents, he arrived at the port of Seattle and from there made his way to Vancouver, B.C. The fonds consists of photographs, mainly pertaining to Barclay's activities in China (1900s-1920s), Oregon (1920s), and B.C. (1930s-1950s) as well as related correspondence, memorabilia and clippings.

Rudolph and Edith Crook were Canadians who served as Baptist medical missionaries in the Szechuan province of China between 1920 and 1950. The fonds consists of a manuscript entitled A Trip to Tibet, 136 black-and-white and colour prints, and 105 slide images relating to life, people, and topography in the Szechuan province.

The Tiananmen Square collection is made up of 11 cassette tapes containing 12.5 hours of audio interviews recorded by Canadian lawyer Angela Codina during the time of the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. Codina was residing in Macau at the time and traveled to Beijing in the midst of the unrest to conduct a series of interviews with the leaders of the uprising. She also participated in the uprising as a speaker at the gathering there, bringing greetings of solidarity as a Canadian to those who were present. The collection also consists of the following: written transcripts that were later made of the interviews; materials for a book written by Codina; newspaper clippings; periodicals and journals; correspondence; 274 photographic negatives; and 448 colour photographs.

Japanese Materials

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1910, Jessie Miller worked briefly as an Anglican missionary in Saskatchewan before being posted to a church in Gifu, Japan. She worked largely with women and children, particularly those living with blindness, and spent the majority of her life in Japan until poor health forced her to return to Canada in 1969. The fonds consists of Miller's slides of missionaries, hospitals, and houses in Japan, including street scenes of Tokyo.

John Cooper Robinson was an Anglican missionary who lived and worked in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was born in rural Ontario in 1859 and went on to study at Wycliffe College, an Anglican Church seminary associated with the University of Toronto, in 1881. He was ordained as a priest in 1887 and then got married and moved to Japan the following year, where he was the first Canadian-sponsored missionary. Robinson and his wife spent most of their remaining years in Japan, returning to Canada for a few short furloughs. In addition to missionary work, Robinson was an avid photographer and captured life in Japan during the Meiji-Taisho period, when the country was transitioning away from feudal society. The fonds consists of over 4,600 photographic prints, negatives, glass lantern slides, and postcards—the majority of which were either taken or collected by Robinson. Many of the photographs relate to Robinson’s work as an Anglican missionary in Japan in the 1890’s through the 1920’s. Subject matter of the photographs includes everyday life, work, and scenery in Japan, as well as the lives and works of missionaries.

The Mavis Hall collection comprises of a variety of printed and photographic materials collected by Margery McCuaig, Hall’s mother, during a trip to Japan that was sponsored by the Japanese Tourism Ministry and the Japanese Government Railways, from July-August of 1939. The collection contains commercially-produced slides, postcards and souvenir photographs, as well as Board of Tourism publications, prints, and a few personal items and memorabilia of McCuaig, such as a passport, scrapbook, and autograph book. McCuaig also collected ephemera from the time she spent on the cruise ship, including daily ship menus, news bulletins, travel brochures, and entertainment programmes that exhibit her experiences onboard.

Howard Norman was born in Japan in 1905 and, after graduating from the University of Toronto, studied to become a minister. Ordained in 1931, he returned to Japan where he served for ten years before moving back to Canada. He was a minister at St. George's United Church in Vancouver from 1941 to 1947, during which time he was very active on behalf of Japanese Canadians. The fonds consists of correspondence between the Norman family (1922-1957), a family member’s will, and photographs, as well as articles and other biographical information gathered for tributes.

From 1886-1889, Edward Odlum and his family lived in Japan, where he was engaged in educational work. Odlum's son Victor was born in Cobourg, Ontario and came to British Columbia in 1889. He worked as a reporter and then editor-in-chief of the Daily World. Victor also served as MLA in the Provincial Legislature (1924-1928) and completed a distinguished career in the military. The fonds consists primarily of material generated by Edward Odlum (1850-1935). It includes drafts of Edward Odlum's A Dictionary of Classical Antiquity, references to the Israelite movement, and material he wrote and collected about Japan (1888-1927).

Sir George Bailey Sansom was a diplomatist and scholar who was born in London in 1883. He served as private secretary to Sir Claude Macdonald, ambassador to Japan, from 1905-1912, as well as secretary to ambassador Sir Charles Eliot. Both posts allowed him to make the acquaintance of many Japanese leaders and scholars and the latter encouraged him to devote his spare time to the study of Japanese language, culture, and history. In 1931, he published Japan: A Short Cultural History, which was based on primary materials in Japanese, added a new dimension to the English-language literature on the subject, and eventually became the standard text for university courses in Japanese studies. From 1947-1953, Sansom served as a professor of Japanese studies at Columbia University and the first director of its East Asian Institute. Throughout his life, he continued to research, write, and publish works on his fascination with Japan. The fonds consists of 23 manuscripts containing pages cut and pasted from Sansom's A History of Japan (1958-1964), as well as accompanying handwritten notes.

South Asian Materials

Bennett Pell was born in 1842 in Faversham, Kent and went on to be a worker for early telegraph companies. He oversaw the installation of telephone lines in Europe and Asia and is credited with the invention of the Brockie-Pell arc lamp. In 1863, he became involved with the Indo-European Telegraph Department and, in 1874, he became manager of the Eastern Extension Australasia and China Telegraph Company in Singapore. The fonds consists of a copy of Pell's last will and testament, as well as one album containing photographs, prints, and crests collected by Pell documenting his travels in the 1870s. Many of the photographs are labelled by location, and place names include Aden, Alexandria, Batavia, Isle of Wight, Cairo, Hong Kong, Java, Marseilles, Naples, Rangoon, Singapore, and Suez.

George Wallich (b. 1815) was a naturalist and physician who served as an army surgeon in India from 1838-1856 and authored two works on marine biology. The fonds consists of an original copy his book, The North Atlantic Seabed, with handwritten notes; a large, handwritten biological notebook; personal annotated copies of his “Original Papers” and “Contributed Papers”(1857-1865); incoming correspondence; and clippings. Also included are some of Wallich’s records that relate to the Dooars Planters' Association, an organization of tea growers in India.

Harold Escott was born in 1881 in Great Britain. During his lifetime, he often recorded his experiences and those of the world around him. After serving in India after WWI, he eventually moved to Canada, where he became a gardening enthusiast and poet. The fonds contains photos and written impressions of his time in India as a member of the military. 

Warren Hastings was born in 1732 and went on to become the first Governor-General of India. The fonds consists of two letters: Warren Hastings to Elijah Impey from Daylesford House, 9 Nov., 1808; and Warren Hastings to Mr. Charles Purling at Lucknow, from Fort William, 2 Nov., 1780.

Southeast Asian Materials

Leonard G. McCann was born in 1927 in Shanghai and attended St. Giles British School throughout his youth. During WWII, he and his mother Barbara were interned in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp at Santo Tomas University in the Philippines. While interned, the McCanns participated in the functioning of the camp’s internal administration—Barbara as a Room Monitor and Leonard working in the gardens and hospital. Internees were liberated and evacuated from the camp in February 1945. The McCanns were taken by ship to San Francisco, California, but quickly relocated to Canada to avoid the U.S. Military draft. After the war, the McCanns came to Victoria, B.C. based on a sponsorship from Leonard’s aunt and uncle. He eventually found work as a CBC television operation in Vancouver and then worked briefly at CBC in Toronto, before returning to the West Coast to work for BCTV. In 1968, he joined the Vancouver Maritime Museum, where he worked as curator until his retirement in 1993.

The collection consists of pertaining to the Santo Tomas Interment Camp in the Philippines during WWII. The camp was active from 1942 to 1945 and housed over 4,000 prisoners-of-war. Records reflect the internal administrative structure and functioning of the camp, daily life of internees, political activities surrounding the camp, and the personal experiences of Barbara and Leonard McCann.