Owner plans to rebuild Lytton Chinese History Museum after it was destroyed by wildfire

·2 min read
The Lytton Chinese History Museum was awarded the Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline Chung Prize for Chinese Canadian Community Archiving earlier in 2021.   (Lytton Chinese History Museum/Facebook - image credit)
The Lytton Chinese History Museum was awarded the Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline Chung Prize for Chinese Canadian Community Archiving earlier in 2021. (Lytton Chinese History Museum/Facebook - image credit)

The owner of the Lytton Chinese History Museum says she plans to rebuild it as soon as possible after it was burned down in a wildfire that destroyed most of the town on June 30, 2021.

Lorna Fandrich, who purchased the property in the 1980s and opened the museum in 2017, says she wants to restart her business to preserve an important part of Canadian history and help the town move forward.

"I still think people need to hear about the Chinese story in this area."

On Wednesday, Fandrich had the chance to survey the site for the first time since the fire. She said that although most of the 1,600 artifacts held in the museum were destroyed, a search uncovered a few surviving pottery and ceramic pieces and she is hopeful more artifacts may still be found.

Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman said that in addition to documenting important history, the museum was also a key tourist attraction for the town.

"It was definitely an important draw … I know that there's a keen interest in trying to rebuild the museum."

Fandrich said that she plans to focus the new museum around a digital concept, as she has kept a database of all of the items in the museum.

"It's a huge loss … it was one of the best collections in Canada for that era of Chinese artifacts."

The history museum's historic location

Fandrich decided to open the museum after discovering that a Chinese joss house previously occupied the lot. The museum was a recreation of the joss house, or temple, which was built in 1881 by Chinese workers who travelled to Lytton to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

It opened its doors in 2017 to commemorate the work, sacrifices, and contributions made by thousands of Chinese labourers.

The museum received an award from the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. for community archiving just months before it burned down.

Most of the 1,600 artifacts it housed were from between the 1850s and the 1940s. Many of he artifacts were donated by two B.C. collectors.

"It does make me sad because it was their lifetime hobby to collect these things … they were hoping that they would be in a spot where they could be seen by people for generations."

Rebuilding the town

"I think most people would like to rebuild," Polderman said.

However, he noted that there is much work left to do, including taking out building foundations, removing toxic materials, and replacing infrastructure. The village is also working on developing a new building bylaw to ensure that structures built in the future are more fire resistant.

"People want to move back. They're frustrated it's been 100 days."

He said they have a team of people working to get temporary housing in place, and they are also working with the Lytton First Nation to develop the downtown core.

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