Mercantile Mobility

Mercantile Mobility: Chinese Merchants in Western Canada 

Curator: Helen Kwan Yee Cheung

24 May 2023 to 28 March 2024


This exhibition took us on a journey through time, from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth century, to explore what happened to Chinese immigrant workers after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which they helped to build. It offers a new perspective on the history and contributions of Chinese immigrants in Canada by profiling those workers who became merchants. Showcasing materials from Peel's Chinese Experience in Canada Collection, the curator examines the distinctive socio-economic landscape where this dynamic group carved out their own niche and quietly propelled the Western Canadian economy. Their business ventures are explored through rare archival documents and images collected over a decade by the curator through a community-based process and through the ongoing acquisition efforts of the Peel library. In addition to the main exhibition in Bruce Peel Special Collections, there was a summary exhibition on the main floor of Rutherford South from May to September 2023. Request a group exhibition visit (Monday afternoons only) hosted in Cantonese, Mandarin, or English–led by Helen Cheung, Jeff Papineau, and Michaela Morrow–by emailing This multi-award-winning exhibition catalogue is now out of print.

Written by Helen Kwan Yee Cheung, designed by Kevin Zak, and edited by Cheryl Cundell, the Mercantile Mobility catalogue won two Awards of Excellence–in both the book and exhibition catalogue categories–as well as Honorable Mention in the categories of cover design for both books and exhibition catalogues, a quadfecta in the annual UCDA Design Competition (Atlanta, Georgia, 2023) from the University & College Designers Association.

See "New U of A Library Exhibition Honours Chinese Immigrant Contributions" by Taylor Downing inThe Quad (25 May 2023).