Elizabeth Lominska Johnson

Curator Emerita and Research Fellow, Museum of Anthropology

Elizabeth Lominska Johnson is Curator Emerita and Research Fellow at the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada, where she was employed for twenty-seven years. She earned her doctoral degree in anthropology at Cornell University. Her dissertation was based on research she conducted on the social effects of rapid economic change in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, focusing on one of the indigenous Hakka villages. She has continued this research over the ensuing years, participating in relevant conferences and publishing her findings. In the course of her research she had the privilege of hearing and recording Hakka mountain songs and laments. Two of her articles have focused on these forms, once a part of daily life, but now heard only in performance. In addition, she and Graham Johnson have published A Chinese Melting Pot: Original people and immigrants in Hong Kong’s First ‘New Town’ (Hong Kong University Press, 2019), a book on the twentieth-century development of Tsuen Wan that analyses the relation between its original people and mid-century immigrants.

At the Museum of Anthropology she had special responsibility for developing, researching, exhibiting, promoting, and giving access to the Asian and textile collections. She also taught upper-level courses, supervised graduate students, participated in conferences, and published the results of her ongoing research.

The Museum of Anthropology has a large collection of antique Cantonese opera costumes, accessories, stage fittings, and props dating to the first half of the twentieth century, with many from the early years of the republic and the 1920s. It is the largest such collection in the world. The great majority had been preserved by the Jin Wah Sing Musical Association in Vancouver, and were acquired through their generosity. This collection became her special responsibility, and she worked with elderly Cantonese opera experts, those who still had some memory of its meaning, to document it. With their support and grants from the Museums Assistance Program, Department of Canadian Heritage, the museum created the exhibition: A Rare Flower: A Century of Cantonese Opera in Canada, which opened at the Museum of Anthropology in 1993 and was shown at five additional venues across Canada.