John Atkin is a civic historian and author who has has an insatiable curiosity about the history of the city of Vancouver. He has published five books – Heritage Walks Around Vancouver (1992), Strathcona: Vancouver’s First Neighbourhood (1994), Vancouver Walks (2004), Skytrain Explorer (2005) and The Changing City (2011) – as well as numerous articles on heritage issues. John has appeared regularly on television and radio, including for CBC and CTV, was featured in the 1994 Vancouver documentary Glowing in the Dark, and curated a Vancouver Museum exhibition titled City Lights: Neon in Vancouver.
A longtime volunteer at the Garden, John has aided extensively in developing its tours and in providing an accurate interpretation of Chinatown’s history. As a heritage consultant, he co-wrote the application for Chinatown’s national historic site status, in which the Garden was a prominent feature. John is a board member and co-chair of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC, and his famous walking tour of the Garden’s neighbourhood focuses on revealing the real Chinatown – “not the myths of opium dens, tunnels and other nonsense.”
Looking to the future, John hopes that his extensive knowledge of heritage buildings will be of use as the Garden moves forward with its application for inclusion on the heritage register. He also wants to ensure that the Garden plays a significant role in the future of Chinatown as the area continues to evolve. Board duties aside, when he can find the time, he wants to continue to indulge in one of his favourite activities: taking to the Garden on a sunny day to sit, read and draw.