The Girls with the dragon exhibit

Ysa, Emily, and Xuege reflect on working at the latest Museum exhibit, Echoes of Thunder: Unveiling the Mythical Chinese Dragon.


The Gallery attendants - left to right: Xuege Wu, Joyce Lee, Ysa Dagta, Emily Guo


YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Ysa Dagta is a fourth-year BSc in Human Ecology, majoring in Clothing, Textiles and Material Culture, and pursuing a Certificate in Sustainability. She is eager to implement the course materials she has learned in class at the University of Alberta Museums. She finds enjoyment in engaging with visitors and educating them about the exhibition content. In her recreational time, she enjoys lifting weights and learning how to play trick-taking card games like bridge. Fun fact: she has qualified for national-level powerlifting in Canada!


YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Emily Guo, a graduate student in East Asia Studies, is dedicated to researching the evolution of Chinese visual consciousness. She values the chance to integrate her graduate studies in museumification and Chinese art history with her responsibilities in the gallery. In her leisure time, she finds solace in cinema, photography, new media art and spending time with her cat.


YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Xuege Wu is a first-year MA student at the Department of English and Film Studies. Working at U of A Museums, she is exploring how to apply the theories of her field of study, early modern drama, to real-life scenarios—such as devising engaging and memorable interpretations of exhibits. In her free time, Xuege enjoys creating fan art of video games and surfing Wikipedia.

As 2024 marks the Year of the Dragon in the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mactaggart Art Collection’s current exhibit, Echoes of Thunder: Unveiling the Mythical Chinese Dragon, invites visitors to view the legendary symbol that has proliferated in Chinese culture since the Zhou dynasty. The exhibition depicts the origin of the Chinese dragon in China and highlights its symbolic significance, particularly throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties.


Since January, I have been working as a gallery attendant at the Mactaggart Art Collection. Having taken many textile-related courses, I am familiar with concepts of textile degradation agents and using analytical skills to investigate cross-cultural textiles and as U of A Museums must adhere to professional standards and ethical guidelines to preserve objects and specimens for future generations. I was thrilled to see classroom theories in practice and be involved in the process as gallery attendants need to familiarize themselves with how to create a condition report and safely care for and handle objects. 

In my role, I was also part of the set-up crew, helping to get the exhibit ready to open to the public. This behind-the-scenes work required camaraderie between the colleagues at UAM. One of my favourite memories was helping to install the case displays. It tested my strength (the glass panels weighed over 100 pounds) and my communication skills, and trust between colleagues was paramount.


As a graduate student in East Asia Studies, I deeply value the opportunity to work and learn through the Mactaggart Art Collection. This precious academic resource not only enriches scholarly pursuits within Alberta but also resonates across Canada. Its wealth of East Asian artifacts places it on par with renowned institutions like the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, both in terms of quantity and integrity.

Working with fellow members of the exhibition team, I enjoy facilitating visitors’ understanding of the exhibits and gathering their feedback. Through conversations prompted by their inquiries, I often find myself engaged in insightful reflections, fostering a reciprocal relationship between theoretical study and hands-on experience. Collaborating closely with Dr. Isabel (Pi-Fen) Chueh, the curator of the Mactaggart Art Collection, further enhances this dynamic learning environment.

Our participation in the vibrant Lunar New Year celebration at Kingsway Mall served as a delightful prelude to our exhibition. Amidst the traditional dragon and lion dances and the joyful crafting activities celebrating the Year of the Dragon, our promotional efforts for the Echoes of Thunders exhibition provided attendees with deeper cultural insights. By elucidating the origins of the dragon symbolism and showcasing the interplay between Eastern and Western cultures, we fostered a greater understanding of this auspicious festival within the Edmonton community.

Reflecting on the Edmonton community's fascination with dragon culture, I am deeply moved by their enthusiasm. The Chinese community expresses heartfelt gratitude for the city and university's recognition of their cultural legacy. Simultaneously, individuals from diverse backgrounds within the non-Chinese community display a keen interest in dragon lore, Chinese textiles, artifacts, and cultural exchanges. It's a relationship we are committed to nurturing as schools, community groups and individuals continue to visit our exhibition.


As a graduate student in English and Film Studies, my field of study is early modern English drama. I was looking forward to integrating theatrical techniques and dramatic narratives into my work supporting exhibition interpretation. As many of the exhibit’s artifacts contain symbolism, understanding the meaning of this symbolism extends the joy of appreciation for this meaning. 

In my tours, I focus on sharing with visitors how Chinese people during the Ming and Qing dynasties used the different postures of dragons, various kinds of flowers, jewelry, and animals to convey messages through the combination of patterns or the play on words. When interacting with young children, we read picture books about the Chinese dragon to them. As an international student from China, when children quietly told me they found the dragons in our exhibits a bit scary, I realized for the first time how real and subtle the differences between Chinese and Western cultures are. However, no child dislikes sitting down with us and reading about a kind Chinese boy who pleaded for the people and eventually became a dragon, blessing the land.

During my time as a Gallery Attendant, I have developed close friendships with Ysa, Emily, and Joyce. We learned how to integrate our diverse academic knowledge into teamwork to provide visitors with a memorable experience. UAM has always been committed to promoting teaching, research, and community engagement through its collections, and I am proud to be part of these endeavours.

Echoes of Thunder: Unveiling the Mythical Chinese Dragon runs until June 22, 2024.

Presented by U of A Museums with objects from the Mactaggart Art Collection