The United Nations commemorated this day in 2005, in order to “raise general awareness of the need to preserve and safeguard important audiovisual material for future generations, and for urgent measures to be taken to conserve this heritage and ensure it remains accessible to the public now, and to future generations.” This year’s theme is Your Window to the World, a theme which rings especially true during this era of social distancing as we observe events we cannot attend, we hear voices from the past who can no longer speak, and we craft stories that inform and entertain. Audiovisual content plays an increasingly vital role in our lives as we seek to understand the world and engage with our fellow beings.
Audiovisual archives tell us stories about peoples’ lives and cultures from all over the world. They represent a priceless heritage which is an affirmation of our collective memory and a valuable source of knowledge since they reflect the cultural, social and linguistic diversity of our communities. They help us grow and comprehend the world we all share. Conserving this heritage and ensuring it remains accessible to the public and future generations is a vital goal for all memory institutions, as well as the public at large.
Through A Wide Lens: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow
by Catherine Clements and the Canadian Historical Society
Curator and author Catherine Clement describes her quest to discover the legacy of the Chinatown-based portrait photographer Yucho Chow, whose lens captured the racial and cultural diversity of Vancouver in the decades before 1950, and how her search for the story of one man became a portrait of the city’s minorities during a racist era.
With a studio that operated from 1908-1949, Chow was not only the main photographer for the Chinese community, he was also the photographer of choice for many other marginalized groups such as early Sikhs Canadians; Black Canadians; newly-arrived Eastern Europeans and First Nations. Unfortunately, all his negatives were destroyed when his studio was closed and Catherine spent over eight years compiling his photos held in private and family collections.
Below is another video featuring the exhibition courtesy of Vancouver filmmaker Elwin Xie.
Yucho Chow: Chinatown Photographer 1906 – 1949
I love stories, especially the stories of our forebears who worked so hard with so little in order to enable future generations such as myself to have an easier life. The least we can do is to remember their effort and lives. I am a reluctant videographer. I never planned this. If you were unable to attend an engaging presentation complete with images and video, you’d be out of luck as few community presentations were recorded.More important than the brick and mortar of a physical museum are the stories itself. If you have no stories, you have nothing.
I am most proud of my recording of the opening gala of Chinatown “Through A Wide Len: The Hidden Photographs of Yucho Chow” in 2019. This temporary exhibit was held for only a month in the summer when many were out of town which resulting in many potential viewers missing it. What I especially liked about the exhibition is that it captured the forgotten and marginalized segment of the Canadian family such as my family who were pig farmers and laundry workers. While the video was not technically perfect, I am glad I captured the mood and flavour of the event with my economy camera.
Just by showing up is half the battle.
Words and Video by Elwin Xie
The Semiahmoo Arts Society is presenting a virtual panel talk on October 27th which includes VAHMS President Leticia Sanchez, will elaborate on the meaning of cultural heritage, the importance of the preservation of both – tangible and intangible heritage and how we can ensure that we convey history through heritage in an inclusive and embracing manner.