Chinese lantern preservation in Victoria

I’ve been visiting the Royal BC Museum since before it was designated a “royal” institution, and every time I have enjoyed the permanent exhibitions, especially the historic galleries, and often, the temporary exhibitions (most memorable, the display of Leonardo da Vinci drawings and models). The timing was wrong for my most recent visit – a new exciting-looking Race to the Arctic exhibition is now being installed, but I enjoyed a relatively new permanent exhibition area that celebrates Victoria’s Chinese heritage, especially a live restoration-in-progress of a rare decades-old paper and bamboo lantern created for Chinese members of the local Chinese Freemasons association.

The text describing the lantern notes that according to Chinese elders, the lantern was “hand made in Victoria’s Chinatown by an old master. It was likely on display for the Lantern Festival in the 1930s. The exquisite craftsmanship illustrates the best of a tradition rarely seen today, one that is uniquely preserved by Canadian Chinatowns.”

An animation shows how the tiny moving parts of the lantern once worked, although the exhibition panel notes that the conservation process will only preserve the fragile lantern, not restore it to working condition. Just the same, it is fascinating to see the lantern and watch as conservator Lisa Bengston works to stabilize the delicate frame, panels, and moving parts. She is also very patient with visitor questions, mine included (she is on site Tuesday to Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm). Well worth the price of admission.

The animation that shows how the lantern once rotated, moved and glowed is also posted on the museum website: http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/chinese_new_year/default.aspx.

Preservation in progress.

Preservation in progress.

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