May 17, 2022

University of Toronto Receives $4-million Donation to create Chinese-Canadian Archives

From the University of Toronto:

The University of Toronto will establish a Chinese-Canadian archive to collect, preserve and digitize cultural and personal records and stories from the Chinese diaspora in Canada, including oral histories, video and photographs.

The Richard Charles Lee Chinese-Canadian Archive is made possible with a $4-million gift from an anonymous donor.

“The plan of building this archive to document Chinese and Chinese-Canadian lives over the last century provides this historical backdrop to the evolution of Toronto and Canada, and the fact that it’s here in the University of Toronto is important,” says Joseph Wong, vice-provost and associate vice-president, international student experience.


The new archive seeks to safeguard that history for generations to come, says Larry Alford, U of T’s chief librarian.

“One of the things that happens is people build businesses, families come and they thrive and they contribute enormously, but when you get to the third and fourth generation, the documentation of that history, those contributions, begins to be lost,” he says.

The lives and stories of Chinese Canadians will also be captured in their own words through oral histories – a project that will expand on the work that’s already being done by Lisa Mar, associate professor of history and Richard Charles Lee Chair in Chinese Canadian Studies, and her classes.

“Oral histories are amazingly important in preserving history and culture, as a way to understand what happened, how it happened, how people contributed and their own personal recollections,” says Alford.

The archive will also build upon existing Chinese-Canadian collections at U of T, he says.

“We have extraordinary collections already, documenting Chinese history and culture,” he says. “We have the largest Chinese-language collection in Canada, one of the largest in North America, at the Cheng Yu Tung East Asian Library, and what we believe is the largest collection documenting Hong Kong outside of Hong Kong itself in the Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library.”


The donation will also assist U of T Libraries with the important task of digitizing existing and new collections of material related to the Chinese-Canadian community.

“We believe it will attract scholars from all over the world as we build the collection – scholars personally coming here to use materials but also scholars using the digital component from around the world,” says Alford.

“This isn’t just intended to be an archive documenting the Canadian-Chinese experience in the GTA – but across Canada.”

There will also be community programming related to the Chinese-Canadian archives, including exhibits and talks about topical research and collections, he says.

The University of Toronto Libraries will be launching a search for a dedicated librarian to grow the archive and lead these initiatives.

Read the Complete Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.