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.”

Uno Langmann Collection

Posted on January 10, 2018 @12:25 pm by Matthew Murray

You may have recently heard that Uno Langmann, a well known local art dealer, donated more than 18,000 photographs, apparently worth $1.2 million, to UBC! The photos stretch back to the 1850s and go all the way up to the 1970s. While we probably won’t be able to digitize all of the photos (due to copyright restraints) we are excited that we’ll soon begin digitizing many of the earlier ones.

Here’s an example of one of the photo albums we’ll be digitizing. (And don’t worry, our actual scans will be much higher quality than this!)






Of course, the collection isn’t just traditional photographs, there are also postcards, stereographs, menus, and other material that people in the late 19th or early 20th centuries choose to paste into photo albums.

For more on the collection you can check out these articles, this page, or watch the video below!

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Epigraphic Squeezes

Posted on January 10, 2018 @11:52 am by Matthew Murray

If you’ve never heard of epigraphic squeezes I wouldn’t be surprised as they’re not commonly known, they don’t even have a Wikipedia entry!

Epigraphic squeezes are created when a soft, wet material, such as paper or plaster, is pressed into inscriptions made in stone. When the material dries it is removed and becomes a mirrored 3D version of the original text.


Decretum de Minervae Victoriae Sacerdote Temploque (II)
(Decree of Victory Priest Temple of Minerva )

The squeezes can prove to be incredibly valuable as sources for researchers and scholars investigating Greek and Roman antiquity. UBC’s Department of Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies has a collection of over 1000 squeezes, and they asked us to help them digitize them.


Civitatis Foederatae Laudes
(Praises of the Federated States)

It might not seem immediately obvious, but getting high quality images made from this source material is harder than it looks! It took us quite a bit of testing to find the best way to work with this material, but we eventually figured it out and we’re excited that we’ll soon begin using our TTI Repro-Graphic workstation to create high quality images of this entire collection!


 De Proxenis

For more information you can check out the Department of Classical, Near Eastern, and Religious Studies’ blog From Stone to Screen that is tracking the creation of these images. You can also take a look at the entire test collection here, but be warned: there isn’t much content right now.

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Namazu-e Prints

Posted on January 10, 2018 @12:17 pm by Matthew Murray

Hidden within some of our collections you can find content which you might not expect to see! A great example of this can be found in our collection of Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era which features a sub-collection of disaster prints, made up of several dozen prints which describe disasters that occurred in Japan. While some of these prints, such as the ones showing fires and tsunamis, are fairly self-explanatory it was only when one of our digitizers translated some of the text on others that we understood how they were related to disasters.

beans_disaster_prints_6_b(Play script featuring Namazu, a giant catfish, and Kashima, a god of thunder and swords.)

A number of the prints in this collection feature catfish, known as namazu in Japanese. These can be incredibly confusing when first encountered, both in the “What is that thing?” way (as they frequently have both arms and legs) and the “How is this related to disasters?” way. Things become clearer upon discovering that a giant namazu was blamed for the 7.0 earthquake that happened below Edo (now known as Tokyo) in November, 1855. Just days after this event ukiyo-e woodblock prints depicting giant catfish began to be produced and sold.


(Song to ward off earthquakes caused by catfish.)

The Namazu was supposed to be a giant catfish who lived underground, pinned beneath the foundation stone of a local shrine by the god Kashima. However, when Kashima failed at his task (due to being at a gathering for various gods) the Namazu was able to thrash around and cause much destruction in the form of earthquakes.

beans_disaster_prints_10(People attacking a Namazu, a giant catfish, for causing earthquakes.)

While many of the prints promised to protect people from future earthquakes, others were more aggressive featuring humans subduing or otherwise taking revenge on various Namazu. However, not all of the prints portrayed the Namazu negatively, as some featured them helping to rescue people from the diaster or showering coins onto people appearing in the image. This second theme was based on the idea that disasters were the result of various deities punishing humans for greed or other failings, but were also an opportunity to redistribute wealth as there were many people, such as builders and carpenters, who had much to gain after disasters.


(People attempting to capture Namazu, the giant catfish that was believed to cause earthquakes, while he sprays out gold coins.)

The Namazu-e prints proved quite popular, with somewhere between three and four hundred different designs printed in the two months following the earthquake. However, due to satirical political statements that could be found in some of them the government banned their creation and the printing blocks were destroyed.

To see our complete collection of Namazu-e prints (plust prints showing other disasters), you can go to our website or check out our Flickr page.

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This will be a TRIUMF

Posted on January 10, 2018 @12:18 pm by Matthew Murray


Our newest digitization project is being done in collaboration with TRIUMF, the Canadian laboratory for particle and nuclear physics located on UBC campus. We will be digitizing various reports and other documents dating back to the development and creation of the lab in the 1960s.

Amongst all the text and equations in the reports there are lots of graphs, diagrams, and other images that look cool even if you have no idea what they’re for. Here are just a few!





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What’s for Dinner? Historical Menus!

Posted on January 10, 2018 @11:47 am by Matthew Murray

The digital Chung Collection features a lot of really fascinating material, but unfortunately the collection is so large we haven’t finished making everything in it available online. If you’re interested in any of the material in the Chung Collection (Early BC History, Immigration and Settlement, and the Canada Pacific Railway) you should try to make time to visit the collection exhibit in UBC Rare Books and Special Collections.

This week a display of various menus opened as part of the Chung Collection Exhibition room. I decided to check if we had scanned any menus, and found a few neat ones.

The first is the menu from the W.K. Oriental Gardens, and it features both awesome colour and a really cool shape! There’s a handwritten date on the cover saying it’s from 1936, and the prices inside seem to back that up: the most expensive item is a T-Bone Steak at $1.50.


Next is the menu from the Mandarin Garden Cabaret. This one is apparently from 1920, and I’m showing it off for the notice on the second page. It includes a number of rules including “Soliciting Dancing Partners from another table is absolutely forbidden.”.



We also have some menus in the R. Mathinson Printing Collection, such as this one from The Hub Dining Room in 1887. Back then a steak was only 50 cents, making the price at W.K. Oriental Gardens seem positively obscene in comparison.


Of course, one of the best things about looking at these old menus was discovering what Postum was (a coffee alternative), and the existence of their mascot: Mr. Coffee Nerves.

There are a few more menus in our online collections, but if you’re interested you should definitely check out the display in the Chung Collection!

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Discorder Digitization Destiny

Posted on January 10, 2018 @11:51 am by Matthew Murray

We’re excited to announce that we’re soon going to start digitizing Discorder, the monthly(ish) music magazine published by UBC’s community radio station CiTR (101.9 FM).

Discorder has published hundreds of issues since in launched in 1983. They’ve reviewed countless albums and shows, interviewed who knows how many bands and musicians, and published lots of essays, comics, and other material. We’re excited to start scanning this important part of Vancouver’s musical history, and can’t wait until it’s all available online! Until then you can check out some of their more recent issues on Issuu.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 10.09.02 AM

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Objection! We’ve digitized the John Keenlyside Legal Research Collection

Posted on January 10, 2018 @11:58 am by Matthew Murray

The UBC Library Digitization Centre and Rare Books and Special Collections have just completed the digitization of court files from the John Keenlyside Legal Research Collection. These case files from early British Columbia courts were created between 1858 and 1891, and originate from the provincial Bankruptcy Court, the Supreme Court of Civil Justice and a county court on Vancouver Island. The documents show the legal and economic atmosphere in colonial and early provincial British Columbia and provide evidence of people interacting with the court system of early British Columbia. Many of the documents pertain to Chinese and Aboriginal people in the court systems.

This collection is our first to be digitally preserved in Archivematica before being made available online in AtoM.


File 1-06 – R. v. Stalehum (1 doc); Charged with shooting with intent; 1863/02/00

[…] These are to command you, the said Constable, in Her Majesty’s name, forthwith to convey and deliver into the custody of the said Keeper of the said Common Jail, the body of Kaisue alias Thalaston charged this day, before me, the said Justice, on the oath of John Henley of Victoria in the Said Colony, for that the said Kaisue alias Thalaston on the fourth day of April in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three on a little island about three or four miles from Salt Spring Island in the Said Colony of Vancouver Island and its dependencies, did feloniously shoot at John Henley and Bill Brady with intent then and there to kill.

Contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided.

And you, the said Keeper, are hereby required to receive the said Kaisue alais Thalaston into your custody, in the said Common Jail, and him there safely to keep until he shall thence be delivered by due course of law. Herein fail you not. […]

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British Columbia 1882/83 Directory

Posted on January 10, 2018 @11:32 am by Matthew Murray

One of our ongoing projects at Digital Initiatives is the the BC Bibliography project. For this project we are digitizing thousands of books, pamphlets, and other publications with historical value concerning British Columbia. These run the gamut from political speeches and documents, to travelogues, to books concerning aboriginal languages (plus lots more!). While many of these books are mostly of interest to scholars and historians, its possible to find interesting content in books you might otherwise consider boring. Case in point being the British Columbia Directory, a listing of businesses and homes in British Columbia that was published for several years near the end of the 19th century. It was like a phone book before telephones were invented and before people stopped using phone books.

Williams_Directory_83_t39_RIt might look really boring from the outside (and many of the pages are just listings of names), but there are also a bunch of neat looking ads inside! The number of different fonts used in some of these ads is extremely high; I imagine graphic designers being driven insane just looking at them, and yet somehow they seem to work.

Williams_Directory_83_t13_RElectro-Plated Ware!

Williams_Directory_83_t16_LApart from pages printed on colour paper this is the only colour in the entire book, and it really stands out.


Williams_Directory_83_t31_RThat poem is actually an ad for a tobacconist, though figuring out exactly where it’s located takes some effort.

Williams_Directory_83_t36_L Williams_Directory_83_t189_RIt’s fascinating to see undertakers who also sell sewing machines, sheets, and kitchenware.

Williams_Directory_83_t396_LWilliams_Directory_83_t397_R Straight from Wikipedia: “Coraline was manufactured from the straight, stiff fibers of the Mexican ixtle plant, bound together by two strands of thread wrapped in opposite directions.”

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Images in Stereo

Posted on January 10, 2018 @11:27 am by Matthew Murray

Some of the images in our collection are really cool but others, while still cool, can be considerably more mystifying without knowledge of how or why they were created. An example of this are the stereographs that appear in the Arkley Croquet Collection and the Chung Collection. These images generally look something like this:


If you’ve never seen an image like this before you might wonder why two (almost) identical photos have been printed right next to each other. Well, when viewed through a special “stereoscopic” viewer these images give the illusion of 3D! Stereography works by presenting a slightly different image to each eye, fooling your brain into combining the images into a three dimensional one. The idea was originally developed in the first half of the 19th century, but variations and improvements have continued to be created.

Unfortunately we don’t have a stereoscope to look at these images (and you probably don’t either, though they can be purchased online), but we’ve been experimenting with other ways of showing the 3D effect that they produced.

The first is through anaglyph 3D, a method which uses glasses with red and blue (or cyan) lenses. To create images in this format we overlay one image on top of the other, and give both layers either a red or blue tint. Since this method was, until recently, what most people thought of in regards to 3D images you might have a pair around somewhere.


(Original image.)


(Original image.)

The other method we found could be used to create 3D images is called wiggle stereoscopy. This method involves layering one image on top of the other, splitting them into separate frames, and created an animated gif that quickly switches back and forth between the two frames. It’s not the best way of viewing 3D, but it’s still pretty neat.


(Original image.)


(Original image.)

Unfortunately, both of these methods can cause headaches if you stare at them for too long, so just don’t spend all day looking at them!

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The Puban Project

Posted on January 10, 2018 @12:06 pm by Rob

Page from the "Ting Chun Lou Shi ChaoThe Puban Project is a collaborative venture between the UBC Library Digitization Centre, the UBC Asian Library and the Sun Yat-sen Library, part of the Guangzhou Library in Guangdong Province, China. The UBC Library houses several collections of rare Chinese material including the Puban. The core of the Puban (蒲坂藏書) was originally a part of the famed Nanzhou Shu Lou (南州書樓), a large private library owned by Xu Shaoqi (徐紹棨) (1879–1948), a professor of Chinese literature and bibliography, curator of the Guangdong Provincial Library and one of the renowned bibliophiles of South China. The focus of the Nanzhou was primarily census and historical records, documents and literature of Xu’s native province. Some of these works are unique, original copies drawn from the Nanzhou materials that were transferred from the Mainland to the Yao (姚) Family in Macau during World War II. The new owner, Mr. Yao Junshi (姚鈞石), enlarged the collection with high quality works of a similar nature and gave it its present name, the Puban. The Puban and other material form the UBC Asian Library Rare Book Collection. The image at the left is a page from the 聽春樓詩鈔/Ting chun lou shi chao,

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