Here at the Digitization Centre we are fascinated and excited by the vast amount of primary-source material that our digitization work exposes us to.  Whether a document of historic significance, a beautiful illustration, or even a particularly fine typeface, we are frequently amazed by the materials we’re working to share with the world.  So much so, that not only will we crowd around to ogle a particularly interesting specimen, but we’ve started decorating our workplace with copies of some of our favorites.  But why stop there?  Surely, we can’t be the only ones geeky enough to appreciate such “gems” in our collections, and so we’ve decided to share them here with you.  Below you will find some of our favorites, hand-picked by staff from both existing and upcoming collections.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!   TIP: To view full resolution versions of the images on any size screen, click to enlarge and then right-click and select “open image in new tab.”

What’s Old is New Again

Posted on July 19, 2017 @2:35 pm by liz otero

The objects within Open Collections are beautiful, often rare, and allow connection with history as only primary sources can. As your humble blog correspondent, I am consistently struck with how different things were, yet what we are interested in, our concerns, and struggles are the same. This week, let’s see what the past has to tell us about how to live our lives.

Facts and figures relating to Vancouver Island and British Columbia showing what to expect and how to get there by Joseph Despard Pemberton. I moved to Vancouver about a year ago, and am always interested in different historical perspectives on this place.

This section of a book containing Chinese medicine formulas could be exactly what you need! It may have been brought by or for the Freemasons.

The Traité Général des Pesches, et histoire des Poissons qu’elles fournissent, tant pour la subsistance des hommes, que pour plusieurs autres usages qui ont rapport aux arts et au commerce contains everything one needs to know about fish, fisheries, and everything connected. I’ve never gone further than a hook and line, maybe this is the time to obtain to a fishing boat?

This set of correspondence regarding a herring shipment from the Chung Collection proves that sometimes, life is just paperwork.

This letter from the History of Nursing in Pacific Canada reminds me that it’s always the right time to write a letter to someone I care about.

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Searching Open Collections part 2: Subject keywords

Posted on July 18, 2017 @2:05 pm by liz otero

When we last met, we had found a photo of an old growth forest:


Scrolling down on this screen reveals the metadata* attached to the item:

I want to continue my search, and so I’m going to look at the area called “Subject”, here listed as Forestry; Logs; Cedar trees. To start out, I’ll use “Cedar trees”, since we’re looking for photos of the forest, not specifically logging.

For the search, I’ll go back to the home of open collections: open.library.ubc.ca (Starting at the “home screen” will ensure that my search will be a clean slate.)

See how I’ve put the subject that I’m looking for in quotation marks (“”)? This ensures that I’ll get things with the entire phrase, not just cedar or trees.

With this subject, I’ve got 546 results, that I can peruse at my leisure.

Let’s try a different strategy: our own search terms! Generally this is the first option that people use, which is why our tutorial started in other places.

The original question was for old growth forests, so I’m going to use these direct words. To formulate my query, I will try to get as narrow of a result as possible at first, just to see what’s out there.

For a specific query, I will use

forests AND “old growth”

I don’t need all of these words to be in the same place, or a specific order, in my search results, so they are separated. However, I do want *all* of these words, so I’m using an AND within my query.

After searching, I find that there are 1711 objects, many of which are texts:

As I scroll through, I’m finding mostly objects from BC Sessional Papers, which are interesting and may help expand my knowledge for future searches, but are not what I’m looking for now. Let’s see what a search for just forest turns up:

I’ve filtered to look only at still images, and we have 489 photos. If this were my search, I’d scroll through, and then look at the subjects of another photo that fit what I was looking for. Because “forest” is a broader term than “Cedar trees” that we used above, these photos aren’t as close of a fit as we would like- it’s worth the time to find the words that work for the system you’re using.


Thank you all, and happy searching!


*metadata: a set of information about the object, used in this instance for access to the object


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Searching Open Collections part 1: Using established collections

Posted on June 29, 2017 @11:34 am by liz otero

This week on the blog, we’ll use Open Collections to search for some images. @VanBigTrees submitted this question on Twitter:

Let’s get started!

First, we’ll go to Open Collections at https://open.library.ubc.ca/

From here, we can start a search a few ways. Today, we’ll explore using the collections, and next week, we’ll work with keyword searches. First, let’s select the “Browse by Collection” button to see if there are any collections that might be helpful to us:

I chose to scroll through these collections and open up the Capilano Timber Company Fonds:


Since I’m looking for photos of old-growth forests, a logging company might feel counter-intuitive. One strategy among many is to search for the opposite of what you’re looking for: a logging company would need documentation of what was there before they cut it down.

This is the front page of the collection: Here you can see dates, subjects, and if you scroll, a brief overview of the collection. Since I don’t know what’s here, I’m going to search all the items in the collection; type an asterisk (*) in the search bar.

Here is the list of everything in the collection- all 151 items. Since I’m looking for images of forests, I’ll see what my options are in the “Subject” field over on the left hand side.

The most common subject, “Cedar Trees”, sounds like a good place to start. I’ll select that and then scroll through the images.

I like one entitled “Capilano Cedar”

An old-growth forest photo!! Come back next week for the next stage of the search: using subject terms and keywords.

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Touring the Nitobe Memorial Garden

Posted on June 14, 2017 @2:10 pm by liz otero

Vancouver is greening up spectacularly with the warmer weather. We’re enjoying many lunchtimes in the beautiful gardens here at UBC, and soaking up as much greenery as we possibly can while it’s here! This week on the blog, we’re taking a photo tour through the Nitobe Memorial Garden. 

The Nitobe Memorial Garden is on UBC’s Vancouver campus, but it feels like another world entirely – winding paths encourage contemplation and reflection. Over the years many photographers have captured glimpses of the gardens, views that will have to satisfy us until we can make it back.

Visitors enjoy the garden in 1975:

A view of the garden in the 1960’s:

A few snaps from 1965

Mrs. Tetsuo Ban with Ishadora (Japanese Lantern) during presentation ceremony April 28, 1966


Inscribed stone in Nitobe Garden- 

Women in costume for a performance of Madame Butterfly in 1960:

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The Gold Rush in Open Collections

Posted on June 8, 2017 @9:27 am by liz otero

British Columbia in the second half of the nineteenth century is defined by her gold rushes. Various prospectors, miners, entrepreneurs, and other settlers descended upon BC in waves, and the documents they’ve left behind are as varied as they were.

This broadsheet, The Frazer River Thermometer, both offers advice and gently ribs the potential prospector.



One of these men is not dressed appropriately for the job… (from the Jane Eva Denison fonds, album “Caravaning to the land of golden twilight”)



And this monograph is too good (and a good length for a blog post), so we present the entire thing:

Map of the Cariboo and Omineca gold fields, and the routes thereto, compiled from reliable authorities ,W.D. Patterson

The information deemed necessary seems quite slim: a helpful page of figures, a map, and some adverts for underclothing.

There are quite a few books concerning the gold rush within the collection, especially from the BC Historical Books Collection. This one is a fictional take on the Cariboo rush: (click through for the entire monograph!) 


Have you ever searched for gold-rush era documents within Open Collections? Is there anything we can help you find?

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BC Historical Newspapers Update- 2017

Posted on May 25, 2017 @3:47 pm by liz otero

UBC Data Librarians in 1975- current librarians appear in colour.




Not surprisingly, we at the Digitization Centre are a big fan of analytics. Data about how people use the data and images we produce? Our knees are weak. What we’ve learned is that our blog post from 2013 regarding the BC Historical Newspapers Collection is one of the most often used, so an update including the last four years of work seems appropriate. Without futher ado:





These titles and date ranges are current as of the publication of this blog post- for the most current list, please see: https://open.library.ubc.ca/collections/bcnewspapers

Newspapers Available:

Newspaper Name  Date Range (Not all dates will have newspapers)
Abbotsford Post 1859—1994
Advance — Midway 1897—1927
Agassiz Record 1923—1924
Alberni Advocate 1912—1915
Anaconda News 1901—1927
Armstrong Advance 1903—1096
Arrow Lakes Advocate 1914
Atlin Claim 1899—1913
British Columbia Lumberman 1866—1913
Bella Coola Courier 1912—1917
Bennett Sun 1899—1921
Boundary Creek Times and Greenwood Weekly Times 1865—1935
British Columbia Labor News 1921—1922
British Columbia News 1866—1927
British Columbia Record 1916—1920
British Columbia Tribune 1866
Brooklyn News 1898
Canford Radium 1917
Cariboo Sentinel 1865—1875
Cascade Record 1898—1901
Cassiar News 1919
Chase Tribune 1912—1946
Chilliwack Free Press  1911—1912
Coalmont Courier  1912
Coast Miner  1899—1900
Coast News 1945—1994
Courtenay Review  1912—1918
Courtenay Weekly News  1892—1896
Cranbrook Herald  1898—1927
Cranbrook Prospector  1905—1917
Creston Review 1908—1975
Crofton Gazette and Cowichan News 1902—1906
Cumberland Islander  1910—1931
Cumberland News 1896—1931
Daily Building Record  1911—1920
Daily Telegram 1890—1929
Delta News 1902—1910
Delta Times 1903—1914
Despatch  1904
District Ledger — Fernie  1983—1920
Duncan Enterprise  1900, 1903, 1914
East Kootenay Miner  1897—1898
Echo  1907—1908
Enderby Press and Walker’s Weekly  1908—1921
Evening Kootenaian  1898
Evening Telegraph  1866—1921
Evening World  1884—1930
Express  1905—1912
Fernie Ledger  1905—1907
Fraser Advance  1907
General Conference Daily Bulletin  1910
Glenora News  1898
Golden Era  1893—1902
Golden Times  1907—1909
Grand Forks Miner  1896—1898
Grand Forks Sun  1901—1927
Greater Vancouver Chinook  1912—1917
Greenwood Miner  1899—1901
Hazelton Queek  1880—1881
Hedley Gazette  1904—1917
Hosmer Times  1909—1910
Hot Springs News  1891—1892
Independent — Vancouver 1900—1903
Industrial World  1899—1901
Kamloops Wawa  1891—1918
Kelowna Record and Orchard City Record  1908—1920
Keremeos Chronicle  1908—1909
Kootenay Liberal  1908
Kootenay Mail  1894—1905
Kootenay Star 1890—1894
Labour Star 1918—1919
Ladysmith Daily Ledger 1904—1906
Lardeau Eagle 1900—1904
Lardeau Mining Review 1904—1907
Leader—Advocate 1923
Ledge — Fernie 1904—1905
Ledge — Nakusp 1893—1894
Ledge — Nelson  1904
Ledge — New Denver 1894—1904
Lillooet Advance 1910—1911
Lowery’s Claim 1901—1906
Mail Herald 1905—1917
Marysville Tribune 1901—1902
Massett Leader 1912—1913
Miner — Nelson 1890—1898
Mining Review 1897—1903
Mission City News 1893
Morrissey Mention 1916
Morrissey Miner 1902—1903
Moyie Leader 1898—1911
Mt. Pleasant Advocate 1903—1907
Nanaimo Courier 1889
Nanaimo Mail 1896
Nelson Daily Miner 1898—1902
Nelson Economist 1897—1906
Nelson Weekly Miner 1899
New Westminster Daily News 1906—1914
New Westminster Times 1859—1861
Nicola Herald 1904—1909
Nicola Valley News 1910—1916
Nugget 1903—1904
Okanagan Mining Review 1893
Omineca Herald 1908—1912
Omineca Miner 1911—1918
Pacific Canadian 1893—1917
Paystreak 1896—1902
Penninsula Times 1963—1979
Penticton Press 1907—1909
Phoenix Pioneer 1899—1916
Port Essington Loyalist 1908—1909
Port Moody Gazette 1883—1887
Prince Rupert Journal 1910—1917
Prince Rupert Optimist 1909—1911
Prospector (Rossland) 1895
Prospector — Fort Steele 1898—1905
Quartz Creek Miner 1897
Queen Charlotte Islander 1911—1914
Red Flag 1918—1919
Revelstoke Herald 1896—1905
San Francisco Journal 1884—1888
Saturday World  1903
Silvertonian 1897—1901
Slocan Drill 1900—1905
Slocan Mining Review 1906
Slocan Prospector  1894—1895
Slocan Record 1911
Star 1908
Sun 1907—1908
Surrey Times 1895
The North Coast 1907—1908
The Wave — Victoria 1900
Tribune—Nelson 1892—1903
Vancouver Building Record 1911
West Forks News 1901
Western Call 1909—1916
Western Clarion 1904—1923
Westward Ho 1886
Ymir Herald 1904—1905
Ymir Miner 1898
Ymir Mirror 1903—1904

Please let us know in the comments if you access the papers, and anything interesting that you find! We are still digitizing newspapers from all over British Columbia, with no end in sight.

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Vancouver-based Collections: Kinesis

Posted on August 1, 2017 @12:36 pm by liz otero

There are so many amazing local materials within Open Collections at UBC Library (https://open.library.ubc.ca/). When local events and news happen, a text search for topics can reveal some interesting background or even just great stories to read.

With the provincial election last week in British Columbia, a search for electoral stories led us to this issue of Kinesis:

Cover of kinesis, June 1976

Kinesis was a Canadian national newspaper which focused on women and women’s issues. It was based in Vancouver and was published from 1974 to 2001. The Digitization Centre has digital copies available of this amazing newspaper, full of insights, opinions, and context for those of us who call Canada, and Vancouver, home. Also, there is some amazing artwork! A few of our favorites below:

May of 1984


June of 1995

A 2-page spread from the same issue.


Have you ever ended up reading articles from online newspapers? Were you looking for something specific, or end up down the rabbit hole?

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Exploring the Florence Nightingale Collection

Posted on July 19, 2017 @2:35 pm by liz otero

As one of many collections of correspondence housed at the University of British Columbia, the Florence Nightingale Letters collection  demonstrates the enjoyment of exploration through the life and thoughts of such a famous person.

A drawing of Florence Nightingale in Sepia on white background

Postcard featuring a drawing of a young Florence Nightingale

Through the timeline browser on the front page of the collection, one has access to letters from as far back as 1845—a letter to an aunt updating her on the goings on of herself and her acquaintances. Thankfully, the full text of the letters is searchable and readable below the images themselves—as examples like this one, while beautiful, are not as helpful to the modern eye.

In perusing the collection, I personally was struck most by this post script from a quick note in 1986: “I do not think he had heard of the nefarious Cistern doings”. Nefarious doings!

We hope you’ll enjoy this correspondence and other text-based collections—a truly unique glimpse into a life not our own.

Last Known portrait of Florence Nightengale

Last Known Photo of Florence Nightingale

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Interesting People in Our Collections

Posted on July 18, 2017 @2:58 pm by kristina mcguirk

Ada Cavendish

Ada Cavendish in an unidentified role

A famous actress of her time (1939-1895), Cavendish was known for playing Mercy Merrick in New Magdalen and Mrs. Darlington in For Love or Money, among many others. She performed and produced in the UK and toured in America, notably brining the plays of Wilkie Collins to popularity the States.


Luther McCarty

Photo taken shortly before death, May 24, 1913

McCarty was a champion American boxer who died during a match against Canadian Arthur Pelkey in Calgary in 1913. The fate of the event influenced boxing in Alberta, although it was later determined that McCarty died as a result of other causes.

Or collections include a potentially distressing photo of McCarthy, depicting men trying to revive him after his collapse. Accounts of this final fight, and the repercussions, can also be found by searching for the boxer in various newspaper articles of the BC Historical Newspapers collection.

Newspaper coverage, following fight


Laura Holland

An undated photo of Holland

Laura was awarded the Royal Red Cross medal for her work as a nurse serving the Canadian Army Medical Corps in both France and Greece from 1915-1918. Her legacy shaped children and social welfare for British Columbia. She worked to implement the Infants Act, the Adoption Act, and the Children of Unmarried Parents Act. In 1933, she became the Deputy Superintendent of Child Welfare for the province, and in 1938 the Advisor to the Minister of Health and Welfare on Social Welfare Policy position was created specifically for her.

The Laura Holland fonds were recently digitized as part of the History of Nursing in Pacific Canada collection.


Sir Tyrone Guthrie

Theatre summer school, 1955

A well-known figure in theatre around the world, Sir Guthrie pioneered radio play broadcasts for the BBC and gained fame as a stage director across the UK, including a stint as the resident producer-director at the Old Vic. After leaving the UK, he helped develop the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.


Laura Glenn

Switzerland, 1947

Nearly 300 images can be seen thanks to the digitized album of Laura Glenn, a chairwoman of the Canadian Red Cross Corps in Windsor, Ontario and member of the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. Glenn’s photos largely cover her time in Europe between 1940 and 1950, including bombed-out city views and the War Court trials in Hamburg, military events, social outings, and travels and historic sites.


David Conde

Ex.1464-1500. Treatment of prisoners of war

A Canadian born in Ontario, Conde became a U.S. citizen and gained attention as the head of the Motion Picture Department of the Civil Information and Education Section in 1945-1946. He also was known for covering the Tokyo War Crimes Trials from 1946-1947. The collection includes records from the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (1946-47) from Conde’s own research notes to photographs, ephemera and trial transcripts. Some materials are available through our digital collections, but the full fonds is in UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections.


“Allen Sillas Wilmot and Mary Corburt”

A group portrait, presumably between 1870 and 1880

And, finally, there’s one group that’s definitely peaked our interest, and we wish we knew more about them. The album [Jock Taylor’s Travels] is believed to depict the adventures of the HMS Zealous, including this photo captioned as “Allen Sillas Wilmot and Mary Corburt.” They’re a rather smiley crew for the period. But who were they? Not all that hair is real, right? And what’s with the poses? And, most pressingly, what do the two hand signals mean?



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Signs of Summer

Posted on June 29, 2017 @11:31 am by kristina mcguirk

The school term is over, finals are over, the sun is shining for more than an hour at a time… We’re spotting signs of summer both outside and in our collections!

Hats and tea, between 1895-1905


Dockside poses, 1924


Reading outdoors totally counts as being outdoorsy between 1910 and 1920


1959 family time


Wooded wonderland, between 1900 and 1910


Boating and swimming at Horseshoe Bay during the 1922 UBC Alumni Picnic


Camping at the north shore of English Bay in 1901


Boat snoozing, between 1920 and 1925


Camping and fishing with (furry) friends, 1937


Tennis trash talking, 1910


1912: Ties not optional


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