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.”

Namazu-e Prints

Posted on April 22, 2014 @10:24 am 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.

No Comments

This will be a TRIUMF

Posted on April 14, 2014 @4:28 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!





No Comments

What’s for Dinner? Historical Menus!

Posted on July 31, 2014 @12:32 pm 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!

No Comments

Discorder Digitization Destiny

Posted on April 2, 2014 @10:38 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

No Comments

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

Posted on March 18, 2014 @1:37 pm 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. […]

No Comments

British Columbia 1882/83 Directory

Posted on March 17, 2014 @2:52 pm 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.”

No Comments

Images in Stereo

Posted on March 5, 2014 @12:12 pm 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!

1 Comment

The Puban Project

Posted on February 21, 2014 @11:25 am 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,

No Comments

Digital Initiatives on Flickr!

Posted on April 8, 2014 @11:51 am by Matthew Murray

You may not know it, but a few months ago we set up a Flickr account! We’ve chosen several collections that we feel have really great images and have started to upload them so that more people can see the work that we’re doing. If you see any images you like, we’d love for you to share them with your friends! Properly crediting us of course : )

So far we have photos from nine different collections on Flickr, and we’re uploading about a dozen new photos to a different collection every weekday. Once we finish uploading all the photos from a specific collection we’ll start adding a new one! If you have any suggestions for which collections you’d like to see on our Flickr page let us know in the comments. Follow us on Twitter to get updates about what collections have been updated, and for links to photos we think are especially awesome.

The collections on Flickr (so far) are:

 Andrew McCormick Maps and Prints

A diverse collection of historical maps and illustrations, dating from 1503 to 1910, that pertain to the exploration and mapping of the world, the evolution of cartography, and the explorarion and settlement of North America.

Capilano Timber Company fonds

The images are originally from a single photograph album, and depict the operations of the Capilano Timber Company, including loggers, logging camps, and views of the Capilano Valley and the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver.

Chung Collection

The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection is an outstanding collection of archival documents, photographs, books and artifacts related to three broad themes: British Columbia History, Immigration and Settlement and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. 

H. Bullock-Webster fonds

As a young man H. Bullock Webster (1855-1942) came to Canada from England and began working as an apprentice clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1874. While in the service of the company Webster travelled extensively to HBC posts throughout the Canadian west and in particular northern Alberta and British Columbia. By 1878 he was in charge of the trading post at Fort Connelly on Bear Lake in northern British Columbia. 

Although never formally trained in art, Webster sketched throughout his life. While in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company he compiled an album of some ninety three colour sketches depicting social life, activities, customs and dress in and around Hudson’s Bay Company posts mainly around Stuart Lake and Fort McLeod during the period 1874 to 1880. Many of the sketches included First Nations as well as Metis people whose participation was critical to the Canadian fur trade. 

Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era

UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the world’s largest collections of maps and guidebooks of the Japanese Tokugawa period, ca. 1600-1867. The collection varies in both format and size: items range from small single-sheet maps to more than thirty square feet, and also include a ceramic plate, a woodblock, and 15 maps in scroll format. Most of the items in the collection are rare, and some are unique. 

Peter Anderson fonds

Born in Sweden, Peter Anderson emigrated to the United States in 1885, worked as a logger in Wisconsin, and later owned a sawmill in Washington. He later moved to British Columbia and started a new logging company at Knox Bay. The photographs document early logging operations in British Columbia as well as Anderson’s experiences in the forest industry.

R. Mathison Printing Collection

The R. Mathison Printing Collection contains materials, printed between 1886-1890, for businesses in Vancouver by R. Mathison Jr., The Job Printer. The style is visual; often with mixed fonts and fancy script.

UBC Library Framed Works

This collection includes prints, photographs, charters, and documentary artworks, all originating from diverse sources. Some of works form part of a larger collection or fonds held by the Archives or Rare Books and Special Collections. Some items are interesting examples of a particular artistic medium or technique; others provide valuable visual documentation of scenes from British Columbia’s history.

As a number of these works have little or no identification, we would welcome receiving corrections or additional information. Please contact us at spcoll@interchange.ubc.ca.

WWI Posters 
(Eventually this will have posters from WWII as well!)

Posters, broadsides, and ephemera from World War I, published in Canada, Belgium, England, France, Germany, and the United States. The posters cover a variety of subjects including recruitment and enlisting, savings stamps, savings and victory bonds, women, agriculture, and munitions. 

No Comments

World War I British Press Photograph Collection

Posted on February 4, 2014 @1:44 pm by Matthew Murray

We’ve recently began to digitize material in the World War I British press photograph collection held at Rare Books and Special Collections. The photos were intended for publication, and most feature a caption on the reverse. The photos are divided into folders based around certain places and topics such as “Mesopotamia” and “Battle of the Ridges”.

While we digitized 1000 of these images a few years ago (you can see those photos here) there are still 5000 more photographs that we hadn’t scanned. However, we’ve now started work on this project in earnest and hope that in the near future the entire collection will be digitized and available online! Here’s a selection from just the first box of photos (there are six more boxes!).


Official photograph taken on the British Western Front: Interior of the Arras Cathedral


Official Photographs taken on the Front in France: A car in trouble after the thaw


Women’s Work: British women aeroplane workers near Birmingham welding frame tugs for planes


Great Britain Advance in Palestine: Imperial Camel Corps just outside Beersheba (1917)


Official photograph taken on the British Western Front: Cycle orderlies under fire

No Comments

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library



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