Virtual Exhibit Explores History of Chinese Immigration to York Region

A new virtual exhibition highlights the history of Chinese immigration to York Region, Chinese culture and the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act. The exhibition features artifacts, photographs and stories from York Region community members.

The exhibition, called Standing in the Doorway: Lived Histories & Experiences of the Chinese Community, is available on the York Region District School Board Museum and Archives website. The exhibition has been developed in collaboration with community members, partners and the Markham Museum. An in-person and travelling exhibition opens at the Markham Museum in September 2023. 

“As a school board, we want to ensure our students and families see themselves, their identities and cultures, reflected in their classrooms,” said Rebekah Mitchell, Curator, York Region District School Board Museum and Archives. “We were honoured to partner with the Markham Museum, students, staff, and so many others to help share the stories of the Chinese community in York Region. We hope that educators, families and community members can use this virtual exhibit to learn more about the rich Chinese culture and history here in York Region and to spark conversations about their own identities.” 

“We want to tell the story of resilience and perseverance of an important community in Markham and York Region. The Chinese community is underrepresented in our exhibition schedule and our museum collections,” says Janet Reid, Curator, Markham Museum. “This community-driven exhibit will celebrate our Chinese residents, and also engage and educate the wider community through a multi-part virtual and touring exhibition program.”

Students and staff at several different York Region District School Board schools are also involved in the project, producing a variety of artistic pieces that reflect the resilience and perseverance of the residents of Chinese descent. YRDSB students and educators at Nokiidaa P.S., Bur Oak S.S., Unionville H.S., Markham D.H.S., Markville S.S.and Pierre Elliott Trudeau H.S. have provided important feedback, perspective, input and personal expression into the creation of this exhibition.

In addition to the community oral histories that will be featured in the exhibition, educational kits will be shared with educators in the fall. Students and staff at Nokiidaa P.S. helped test and frame the educational kits that will accompany the traveling exhibition.

“I like how we’re bringing awareness to the community about Chinese people,” said Serena, a Grade 7 student at Nokiidaa P.S. “It was quite frustrating for me to learn about how there was a Chinese Exclusion Act in Canada, because you know how sometimes you think Canada is a wonderful place, none of this could happen, but the Chinese Exclusion Act happened and I’m still seeing some discrimination [against] Chinese people. I think this is a really good idea to appreciate Chinese culture.”

“I wish that people would learn more about our culture since we like showed many things like arts, games, toys and tools, so with all of that information, since they’ll get to know more about our culture, it will break culture gaps,” said Edith, a Grade 7 student at Nokiidaa P.S. 

To learn more about the exhibition, and the significance of the Chinese Exclusion Act, listen to the Tune In YRDSB podcast episode featuring Nancy Siew, community volunteer, Janet Reid, Curator at Markham Museum; Stuart Siu, music teacher at Markham District H.S., Teacher Jadas Lau and students from Nokiidaa P.S.; and students from the University of Toronto’s Museum Studies program. 

Standing in the Doorway is a partnership with students from the University of Toronto's Museum Studies program, and Markham Museum.  The exhibit can be found at

This project is in partly funded by the Government of Canada, through the Exhibition Circulation Fund component of the Museum Assistance Program.

News Release