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.”

How We Digitize: Audio Edition!

Posted on July 24, 2015 @2:36 pm by Alexandra Kuskowski

Every blog reader loves an inside scoop. Here is a heads-up on one of our upcoming projects!

The UBC Library Digitization Centre and CiTR 101.9 FM, the Student Radio Society of the University of British Columbia, are at it again! We’ve got another collaborative project in the works, with support from the BC History Digitization Program and the UBC Centennial Initiatives Fund. This time we are digitizing CiTR’s collection of 800+ reel-to-reels and making them available for future online downloading by YOU.

This collection of rare Vancouver-centric recordings spans in-house radio broadcasts on CiTR from 1949 to the late 1990’s. Recordings include live music performances, radio documentaries, public service announcements, event broadcasts, as well as news, arts, and culture reports. When this project is fully implemented hours of amazing music and voice recordings will be online just waiting to be discovered!


So how is it done? Where do you start?

All of the broadcast recordings are stored on reel-to-reel tapes. Most of them look like this:


CiTR hired an audio engineer to transfer the information from the reel-to-reel’s magnetic tape, on which reel-to-reels are recorded, to a digital media format. In real time the audio engineer used a reel-to-reel playback machine to record through a computer. The tapes were recorded in a high quality sound format called digital broadcast wav format, which can be read by the computer.


Then what? Can we listen to them now?

Nope! Not yet. The broadcast format wav (or Waveform Audio File Format) files are often way too big to download. The recorded wav files can be a gigabyte or more! Its got to be transformed into something smaller- an MP3, which is often less than 100 megabytes.


How long does that take?

A surprisingly long time! Here at the digitization center we have someone look through and listen to the audio.

Then they revise the audio contents for sound quality in a free open-source audio editing program called Audacity. Using Audacity they adjust weird noise levels, and edit out copyrighted audio.


The next step is to take the available file information and check it. This is done by comparing the information they have about the recording – the metadata – against  Discorder, a printed magazine, which reported the who, what and when of most of the broadcast on CiTR. They also check the information against the original reel-to-reel tape.


Finally they create MP3 access files that are a more manageable downloading size.

With over 700 reel-to-reel tape recordings this is a big job! So stay tuned, we’ll let you know when you can get your hands on recordings of everything from that local hipster band just waiting to be rediscovered (by you!) to vintage Sleater Kinney!


Lookin’ forward to listening to these ladies!

Want to learn more about the music related stuff we’ve got? Check out Discorder, a magazine devoted to in-depth coverage of Vancouver’s independent music scene and published by CiTR 101.9 FM. Then look at our blog about our digitization of Discorder.

No Comments

Sea Monsters, Maps & You

Posted on July 17, 2015 @3:47 pm by Alexandra Kuskowski

Cartographers and mapmakers have been inspired since time began by the tall tales the slink out of the sea via mariners and shipwreck survivors. From giant man-eating whales, to mischievous mermaids, to indescribable monsters of another age, these beasts have crept into maps where they are least expected. Many were included to decorate maps and illustrate unexplored regions.

The maps of UBC’s Digital Collections are no exception. One of the longstanding digital collections, the Andrew McCormick Maps & Prints Collection, has quite a few beasties in fact. Check out a few of the fiends hidden among the waves below. Click on any of the pictures to be taken to the digitized map!

Then go exploring the digital archive for yourself. See if you can spot a sea monster! (just hopefully not in English Bay)

This map from 1587 has what might be the scariest serpent/whale ever seen swimming in the Indian Ocean.

This map from 1587 has what might be the scariest serpent/whale ever seen swimming in the Indian Ocean.


This guy from a map in 1573 is also hanging out in the Indian Ocean. Guess that’s why when you zoom out…

you can see all the boats on the other side of the map…


This map is especially terrifying as it looks like both sea monsters are actively chasing after the boats closest to them


… and they’d got fierce teeth!










With what might be the friendliest sea monsters ever, a few whales and his seal pals seem to be chilling on the edge of the map awfully close to a lot of boats.


Oh no! Whale watch out! – Want to know what happened to the whale? Click on this image! (This map was only made 1638- so I don’t want to spoil it)




1 Comment

Extra! Extra! New Uno Langmann Albums Online

Posted on September 10, 2015 @2:30 pm by Alexandra Kuskowski

We’ve posted about the Uno Langmann BC Historical Photograph Collection before here, here, and here, but now we’ve got even more to talk about!

Like, for example, this newly uploaded photo:


Of the 4 people in this picture at least 2 are thinking only about that dog.

In case you want a refresher (and to know where this photo originates) – The Uno Langmann BC Historical Photograph Collection, with over 18,000 photographs, was donated by Uno Langmann a local Vancouver art dealer and his wife. It is considered an amazing collection of early photography, and local provincial history. The photos themselves span the ages – from 1850 all the way to the 1970s!

Today we want to announce lots of new albums from this collection have gone live! From only two albums last year at this time we now have more than 55 albums up for exploration- with more to come!

Take a bite out of the Uno Langmann BC Historical Photograph Collection! Click on any of the pictures to be taken to the albums.

Get a look into daily life…


A photo taken between 1895-1905 –Parenting the old school way…in between reading your books.


Titled “The Student” –This girl is ready to take on UBC in the fall don’t you think?


Whose up for watching the band play by the water? Everyone? Okay!

Local history is everywhere in these photos too, from the fire at Pier D in 1938, to the building of the Lions Gate Bridge.


Lions Gate bridge half built!


Fire at Pier D in 1938 – One of the largest and most infamous of the Vancouver waterfront fires.

Hope these images we’ve collected wet your appetite for more!



One Hundred Poets Project Complete and Online!

Posted on January 7, 2016 @10:52 am by Alexandra Kuskowski

The One Hundred Poets Project is online and ready to be explored!

Click me to explore more!

Originating from the personal collection of Professor Joshua Mostow from the UBC Asian Studies department, this project was made possible through generous funding from the Toshiba International Foundation (TIFO) and collaboration between the UBC Asian Studies department, Asian Library, Digitization Centre, Rare Books and Special Collections and Technical Services.

The digital collection consists at present of 55 books and 13 different card sets relating to the poetry anthology Hyakunin Isshu 百人一首 (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each, hereafter HNIS), edited by the famous poet and scholar, Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241) in the 1230s for his son-in-law. It is unquestionably the most famous poetry anthology in the Japanese tradition.

Each of the poems, by 100 different poets, is referred to as waka, or classical Japanese poetry. The anthology proved so popular that a card game, called Uta-garuta, was based on it. Parts of the poems written on each of the cards and players match the sections of the poems together.

The items in this collection originate many years after the original, circa 1615-1868 during the Japanese Edo period, thus proving the enduring interest in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu.

When you explore the collection take a look at the surprising and amazing items to discover. One of the exciting benefits of this collection is that it is also searchable in Japanese!

Check out the beautiful artwork that accompanies much of the text…

One Hundred Poets Image

Click here to see other artwork that surrounds the texts!

One Hundred Poets Image

This book is full of interesting images!


Or take a look at the hand painted art in the front of many of the books…

100 Poets Image

Many of the books in this collection contain a wide range of colors and images

Or examine the cool wooden cards that make up this collection!

One Hundred Poets Image

This wooden card is part of a set!

Want to learn more?


You can check out more about the digitizing of this project here in an earlier blog post!

This is just Phase I! The digital collection was created as part of Phase I of a larger project and is centered around a collection of largely Edo period (1615-1868) material focusing on HNIS. Upcoming work on this project (Phase II) includes more items lined up for digitization and more information being added to our digitized card sets. So don’t go away, stay tuned for more!

We’ve got a lot of related material in digital collections of UBC! These works will complement the library’s other major Japanese digital collection, the Beans Tokugawa Map Collection—one of the three most important collections of Edo-period Japanese maps in the world.

No Comments

(Star) Crossed Letters: To Digitize or Not to Digitize. That is the Question…

Posted on June 24, 2015 @3:16 pm by Alexandra Kuskowski

We’ve talked a lot about how we digitize, but have you ever wondered how we decide what we digitize? There are a lot of criteria for a collections digitization – durability, funding and interest are some – but one criteria point for digitization that is less well known is if the collection will help people learn something new.

One of the collections going through this process right now is the Trutch Family Fonds – currently stored at UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections. Much of Trutch collection are letters written to and from Joseph Trutch who was a well-known political figure in colonial times in Victoria, B.C. Today he is particularly noted for his hostile view of First Nations people, and his push for their forced assimilation. The collection includes many of Trutch’s personal letters. Scholars today review his letters for insight into the common prejudices of the time. Some of which look like this:


And some of which look like this:


Known as “crossed letters” the second set of letters is written in a style called cross writing or cross-hatching. It was once a common practice to have letters that contained two sets of writing written over one another. This usually meant the letter writer wrote to the bottom of the page, turned the paper, and kept writing!


A close up of cross writing

During the early days of the postal system this was done to save money on paper and expensive postage costs. Many postal systems charged by the pages per letter or even the size of the paper.

It might be hard to read at first but many find they adapt after a while. Once you become familiar you learn to ignore the other words. Or at least we hope that’s what happens!

Thankfully a relative of Trutch spent time and energy transcribing many of the letters, something that can be accessed with the collection at RSBC. The letters are also widely known and cited in historical research sources than many things at RSBC. It helps too that most people don’t usually want to squint through the actual letter.

The counter argument, for digitization, is Joseph Trutch was a well known historical figure. Many more people might enjoy seeing the letters digitally and comparing them side-by-side with the transcription.

Keep checking back! You never know, maybe someday you too can go cross-eyed reading cross-hatching.


1 Comment

How We Digitize: Imaging UBC’s “Gazing at Taishan” poem

Posted on June 12, 2015 @3:51 pm by Emily Chicorli

We have digitized an original work by calligrapher and painter, Fan Zeng (b. 1938), created when he was in Vancouver in 1980. The piece’s dedication is to the “UBC Asian Centre” (which opened in 1981). Fan’s intention was to create the piece as a gift to the Asian Centre to display within the building when it opened. It is a copy of the Tu Fu poem “Gazing at Taishan” and is considered one of Fan’s better works, given his age/maturity as an artist when it was created. The piece is made of Japanese paper with some silk remaining from when it was mounted to its original frame, making it quite fragile.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 12.13.43 PM

Click here to view the full record.


So how did we digitize this delicate, large, original work?

Because of its large size we used our “Magnetic Wall”, which is basically a wall in our department that has paint with metal embedded inside it so magnets stick, in order to fully display the object.


Anne Lama (Conservator at UBC), Leslie Field (UBC Digital Initiatives Assistant) and Rob Stibravy (UBC Digital Projects Librarian)


After much testing with camera and Photoshop settings, we were able to photograph individual sections of the object.


Leslie taking photographs of individual sections.


We then used Photoshop to post-process the images and stitch them together to obtain the final digitized copy of the original.


Post-processing includes editing the image (fixing the color, shadows, etc) and stitching multiple images together to create one complete copy.


The calligraphy had been mounted and displayed within the Asian Centre lobby, but was recently removed for conservation and preservation. The original now resides in the RBSC vault and a replica will be displayed, as produced from the digitization.

No Comments

Capitvating Bookplates

Posted on March 24, 2015 @3:03 pm by Emily Chicorli

Bookplates, otherwise referred to as ex-libris (From the books of..), are used to indicate ownership of a book. They are often personalized, artistic and indicative of the time or place of creation.

Images of bookplates are from books and collections donated to UBC Library, developed and maintained by UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections.

Check out the rest of the collection here and let us know which ones are your favorites!



















No Comments

From Stone to Screen: Digitizing the Ancient Past

Posted on June 24, 2015 @3:15 pm by Emily Chicorli

Collaborative projects are at the heart of the Digitization Center. Today, we are highlighting the work done with UBC’s Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies (CNERS) and students from the From the Stone to Screen project.

From Stone to Screen is a multidisciplinary, open access and collaborative digitization project entirely run by students that is increasing access to two collections of epigraphic squeezes. An epigraphic squeeze is the impression of an inscription made by placing wet filter paper on stone letters and using a horse haired brush to press the paper into the grooves of the stone. Once the paper has dried, it is carefully peeled off and a mirror copy is revealed. Here at the Digitization Centre, students involved in the project digitize the squeezes and other artifacts using our TTI table, allowing for exceptional details to be maintained in the digitized copy.

The epigraphic squeezes come from the collections held by CNERS, which were originally donated by two Canadians: Dr. Malcolm MacGregor, a scholar in Athenian history and Greek epigraphy in addition to being a UBC alumnae and eventual head of the department until retirement, in 1975; and by George Fuller’s father, a diplomat who purchased artifacts from antiquity shops in a number of cities including Cairo, Jerusalem and Baghdad, in 2001.

What makes this collection so awesome is that unlike a photograph, an epigraphic squeeze provides 3-dimensional information and an exact replica of the inscription. The squeezes can be scanned, digitized and manipulated in many ways. Digitizing these epigraphic squeezes is resulting in invaluable resources for researchers and users around the world, since inscriptions are only available in unmovable stones, getting access to inscriptions can be difficult. For example, many physical stones are in fragments and the majority of stones in the collection are found in the Epigraphical Museum of Athens, as well as the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and the agora. In many cases, researchers require special permission to take photographs of the original stones. Another barrier to accessing the physical stones is many are in storage and not accessible to the public without special permission. Numerous institutions have also stopped allowing epigraphic squeezes to be made on stones. Thus, the digitized squeezes in these collections allow unrestricted access to scholars to virtually transport the stones to research institutions worldwide.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 10.54.47 AM

Dedicatio Choregica IG_13_0969_001 – Epigraphic squeeze with figurative decoration.

The fact that the project is primarily run by a small group of ten volunteers and four paid staff positions (for 2014-2015), partially funded by the Teaching and Learning Fund (TLEF), is remarkable. The students oversee the curating, research, volunteer coordination, grant writing, management of funds and other responsibilities necessary for the advancement of the project, all in addition to undergraduate, masters and PhD level course and thesis work.

The students are already looking ahead to the future by brainstorming and planning what will happen to the digitized squeezes once the metadata and images have been fully processed. One plan is to create teaching packages, or “classroom modules”, for Greek language courses, Greek history courses and archaeology courses at UBC with ready-made assignments. These learning modules would be made available online for instructors and teachers outside the university to use. The students are also thinking of creating short videos that describe what a squeeze is, how archaeologists get them, how they transcribe and basically, how epigraphic squeezes get from stone to screen.

Currently, there are over 200 epigraphic squeezes available online, with many more to come! Click here to visit the collection via our digital collections webpage.

Thank you to Chelsea Gardner, the Project Director and a PhD student in Classical Archaeology in the CNERS department here at UBC, for taking the time to discuss the project.

Visit the official From Stone to Screen website. You can also follow the project’s progress and updates on Twitter.

No Comments

New Project Announcement: Digitizing PRISM International

Posted on March 9, 2015 @10:52 am by Emily Chicorli

We are excited to announce that we will be digitizing issues of PRISM International, Western Canada’s oldest literary magazine out of Vancouver, British Columbia, whose mandate is to publish the best in contemporary writing and translation from Canada and around the world. The digitization project is in partnership with the UBC Creative Writing department and is set to start in May.

Stay tuned for updates!



Volumes to be digitized


No Comments

Order to Discorder!

Posted on May 27, 2015 @10:35 am by Emily Chicorli

In a collaborative effort between the UBC Library Digitization Centre and CiTR 101.9 FM, the Student Radio Society of the University of British Columbia, we have completed digitizing the entire run of the Discordera magazine devoted to in-depth coverage of Vancouver’s independent music scene and published by CiTR 101.9 FM. This collection greatly enhances access to a rare slice of Vancouver’s music history as it provides extensive documentation of 30+ years of music and culture unique to the city.

The Discorder has been published continuously from February 1983 to the present, making it the longest running independent music magazine in Vancouver. Issues include articles, reviews, photos, features, interviews and advertisements. In recent years, Discorder has extended its scope to include coverage of local artists, books, films and other cultural materials.

The UBC Library Digitization Centre will continue to add issues to the collection as they are published.

Click here to access Discorder through our Digital Collections.

Below are some sample images of the issues in the collection.








Don’t forget to check out the full collection online

No Comments

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library



Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC  | © Copyright The University of British Columbia