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Royal BC Museum joins partners in documenting the story of Japanese Canadian dispossession

August 27, 2014

VICTORIA, BC -- Today, the Royal BC Museum joined 13 other Canadian institutions in a project to conduct research and develop a travelling exhibition about the forced dispossession of homes and properties owned by Japanese Canadian citizens during the Second World War.

The project, called Landscapes of Injustice, is supported by a federal government Partnership Grant of $2.5 million, also announced today. The Royal BC Museum is providing $1.1 million in funding to the seven-year project through a series of in-kind contributions, including designing and hosting a travelling museum exhibition and integrating research findings into the online Learning Portal, an easily-accessible educational platform for K-12 students.

During the Second World War, the federal government systematically forced thousands of Canadian citizens of Japanese ancestry from their homes and then sold their properties, along with profitable businesses, fishing fleets and other possessions, without their consent. The eradication of entire neighbourhoods transformed the lives of Japanese Canadians for generations after the war ended.

“The story of the Japanese Canadian experience during the Second World War is well-documented but perhaps not widely understood by most British Columbians,” said Dr Kathryn Bridge, Royal BC Museum Deputy Director and Head of Knowledge and Academic Relations. “The Royal BC Museum can contribute to a broader understanding of this tragic episode in our history by providing rich archival source materials to researchers, by helping to design a comprehensive exhibition about the issue and by propelling the story to learners everywhere through our online channels.” 

The Royal BC Museum already has extensive source materials in its Archives that document the involuntary appropriation of homes, businesses and other material goods, and the subsequent forced internment of Japanese Canadians.  Photos, letters and other archival materials help tell the story in vivid and often painfully personal detail. 

The 13 other institutions partnering on the project include universities, museums and Japanese Canadian cultural organizations. The total contribution of the partner organizations, including the Royal BC Museum, is $3 million. All partners will collaborate to host and share public programming about the research findings.

The lead organization is the University of Victoria, with whom the Royal BC Museum already has a strong working relationship, offering internships for UVic students and hosting classes in its exhibition spaces. In this project, graduate and post-doctoral students from UVic will be embedded at the Royal BC Museum, learning to refashion their research results into educational content – not just for the Learning Portal for students, but also through the online Atlas of BC for the general public.

The embedded students will also be mentored by Royal BC Museum staff as they help design the travelling exhibition – expected to open in 2019 at the Nikkei National Museum, under the NNM’s curatorial leadership. Timing for its installation at the Royal BC Museum will be announced when the exhibition is closer to completion. 

More information about the Landscapes of Injustice project can be found at

About the Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum explores the province’s human history and natural history, advances new knowledge and understanding of BC, and provides a dynamic forum for discussion and a place for reflection. The museum and archives celebrate culture and history, telling the stories of BC in ways that enlighten, stimulate and inspire. Looking to the future, by 2017 the Royal BC Museum will be a refreshed, modern museum, extending its reach far beyond Victoria as a world-class cultural venue and repository of digital treasures.