Albert and his Rolleiflex

In documenting the history of the early Chinese in the Maritimes, Albert Lee is continuing a journey he began in 1997 when he mounted a show in the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax, a place he frequented as a youngster. “My collection began with my own family photos,” says Lee, “and evolved as I talked to members of the Chinese community.” Many people have made their way to his door with photos, artifacts and stories. In many cases, Lee’s collection of historic photos and artifacts such as old laundry tickets and restaurant menus overlaps with his own family history. Along with his collaboration with UBC, Albert is also a Research Associate of the Gorsebrook Research Institute for Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s University.

“Early Chinese history in the Maritimes is unique,” says Lee. “The West Coast experience is generally understood and the plight of the railway workers is well documented. But the experience in the Maritimes was very different. We were more easily assimilated here.”

In launching his current project, Albert worked closely with Saint Mary’s History Professor James Morrison to secure funding. For Dr. Morrison, who in 2008 was named a Member of the Order of Canada for his extensive work in oral history, this is a collaboration that has come full circle. “Thirty years ago, I was the Director of Saint Mary’s International Education Centre,” says Morrison. “As part of a project on oral histories, I interviewed Albert Lee’s father.”



Robert Lee is an entrepreneur/artist whose diverse background encompasses computer programming and hardware design, marketing consulting, advertising and electronic payment systems.

In sharing old pictures and stories over the years with his brother, Albert, they have found another way to bond by remembering their family and their long lost heritage and legacy. Albert’s recent involvement with Chinese Canadian history – especially from the Maritimes – has brought them even closer through a deeper and sometimes painful understanding of how this history has affected them over the years of growing up Chinese in the West.

Robert currently lives and works and plays in Seattle, Washington.