Spring 2023 - GA 400 D100

Selected Topics in Global Asia (3)

Reworking the Museum

Class Number: 4888

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 4 – Apr 11, 2023: Wed, 9:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Content will vary according to interests of faculty and students but will involve Global-Asia-related study within one or more of the social science or humanities disciplines. This course may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


Reworking the Museum: public history and Asian representation

This is a hands-on course that encourages students to critically evaluate the way that people of Asian descent and Asian histories have been displayed in museums in British Columbia. In the recent past, museums have changed from being spaces that primarily displayed (often stolen) artefacts from the past or “other” communities; they now enact representation. Is this representation meaningful when it takes place in a settler colonial context? How have museums been rethinking their work and what they represent as places that ostensibly preserve the past, but are also spaces of entertainment and community building?

These are the questions students in this course will answer by focusing on the specific context of Asian representation in BC. Students will be asked to “curate” their own small mini exhibit and the best of these will get a chance to be displayed in the Burnaby Village Museum in May 2023.

The course is organized around 4 modules organized around a series of field trips to give provide hands on experience about how public history research is done and presented. The first module focuses on archival research and where to find material on Asians in BC. Students will work out of the SFU Special Collections and Rare Books as well as visiting the SFU Archive. The second module will provide students with the tools to do a critical appraisal of a museum. We will visit two museums in Vancouver one of which has an Asia focused exhibit and the second which is entirely focused on the Chinese Canadian community in BC. The third module will discuss curation and what the work of a curator is by hearing from a guest curator. The fourth and final module focuses on practically finding a common theme for an exhibit, how to put it together and how to generate interest around it. Students will explore the Burnaby Village Museum and speak to professionals at the Museum before building their own mini exhibit.

Note: there is a significant amount of reading in this course and your final project is built around a staggered assignment. It is expected that you will attend the classes and fieldtrips regularly in order to complete your work.


By the end of the course students should be able to:

  • understand and explain the problems of archives especially when searching for subaltern voices.
  • Explain what the main work of a curator is and understand the changed priorities of museums in BC
  • Explain some of the issues with representing marginalized histories in settler colonial societies


  • Participation 20%
  • Fieldwork diaries 20%
  • Presentations 20%
  • Individual meeting with instructor to discuss final project 5%
  • Final museum exhibit and write-up 35%



All material will be provided to you over canvas.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html