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.”


Posted on February 3, 2014 @9:56 am by pughchr

A frequent challenge when making digital collections is determining how best to represent a digital object, so that it is true to the original object but still functions properly in its digital form.

For example, in the case of newspapers, it can be a challenge to determining how best to represent the two page spread. In its analog form, a newspaper is generally viewed two pages at a time. This is not a problem, because users are easily able to focus on one part of the two page spread at a time. However, when digitized, newspapers are usually presented one page at a time, so as not to overwhelm the user. There is so much content on a single newspaper page, that it can be overwhelming to present two newspaper pages on a single screen.

There are also technical problems to consider. A two page spread is twice as taxing on a computer as a single newspaper page.

The problem, however, is that sometimes content is spread across two newspaper pages. For example, take the following two newspaper:

Page 12 shown individually

Page 12 shown individually


Page 13 shown individually

Page 13 shown individually

The word “globally” is spread across two pages. Since “glob” and “ally” are both words independently, this could be confusing to the user. In this case, it is important to show both pages at the same time. Like this:

Pages 12 and 13 shown together

Pages 12 and 13 shown together

However, in most cases we still show one page at a time, to keep the display simple and to reduce the strain on our users’ computers.

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BC Sessional Papers available online

Posted on January 8, 2014 @4:30 pm by mmlam

Digital Initiatives in partnership with Humanities and Social Sciences and the Legislative Library of British Columbia has completed digitization of the first 10 years (1876-1886) of the British Columbia Sessional Papers.  The Sessional Papers are important provincial legislative documents that capture the economical, historical, political and cultural atmosphere of British Columbia history. The collection includes official committee reports, orders of the day, petitions and papers presented records of land sales, correspondence, budgetary estimates, proclamations, maps, voters’ lists by district, and departmental annual reports.

The digitization of the BC Sessional Papers is part of a larger project already being undertaken by the BC Government Publications Digitization Group to digitize important historical BC government documents. Members include University of Victoria, University of Northern British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Legislative Library of British Columbia and University of British Columbia.

Visit the collection here: http://digitalcollections.library.ubc.ca/cdm/landingpage/collection/bcsessional

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The Arkley Croquet Collection has gone digital

Posted on February 3, 2014 @9:56 am by mmlam

A former player on the U.S. National Croquet Team, Tremaine Arkley started collecting illustrations, engravings, photographs, cartoons, paintings and other materials around the game of croquet with the sole idea of “saving the history of the game through art”, as he said in a interview with Croquet World Online (http://www.croquetworld.com/people/collecting.asp).

Now that a large selection of the Arkley Croquet Collection has been digitized and made available worldwide, we thought it was the perfect time to showcase one of its many astounding images, this one by no other than the French painter Édouard Manet.


The Croquet Party, by Édouard Manet

In The Croquet Party (Partie de Croquet à Boulogne-sur-Mer), created in the 1870’s, we can see a group of upper class people enjoying a relaxed game of croquet by the sea. Like many of Manet’s paintings, this one is a window into a private moment, and such a great one that we can almost feel the breeze that’s about to blow away that woman in black’s hat.

The Arkley Croquet Collection will be fascinating for croquet aficionados, of course, but also for scholars and the general public interested in subject matters like art, advertisement and gender roles from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century.

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Holiday Images in UBC Library’s Digital Collections

Posted on November 23, 2015 @10:30 am by mikec

‘Tis the season to unearth a few Christmas themed gems from our digital collections. Happy Holidays from the digitization team!

From the BC Historical Newspapers Collection, The December 25th 1909 issue of the Fernie District Ledger.

From the Arkley Croquet Collection, “The holiday letter from school” depicts a boy daydreaming in anticipation of the the Christmas holiday. The image is originally from The Graphic Christmas Number, 1889. Note the strange gnomish creature riding a croquet mallet.

From the Chung Collection “Christmas bake: 97lbs. weight” ca. 1927. . The description reads “Baker with a cake in honour of Christmas.”


From the H. Bullock-Webster fonds, “Buying provisions for Xmas” depicts Christmas in British Columbia in 1874. The accompanying text tells an anecdote about “Making the pudding” with the available ingredients including flour, moose suet and dried berries.


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Creston Review: New in BC Historical Newspapers

Posted on November 29, 2013 @10:14 am by mikec


Creston Review


In partnership with Creston & District Musuem & Archives we have added issues of the Creston Review from 1909 to 1935 to the BC Historical Newspapers.

The Creston Review was established in 1908 by J. J. Atherton, and was the first newspaper serving the Creston Valley. For many years, the Review was Creston’s only local paper, and was usually a weekly paper though there were a few brief periods when it was published semi-weekly. It changed hands a number of times until taken over by long-time publisher Herb Legg in 1938, but retained its name and its unashamedly “local” focus throughout its life. The Review published its last issue in 1983.



On the Crest of the Wave

Posted on November 27, 2013 @9:58 am by esquin

The Digital Initiatives Unit has digitized thousands of rare books and images, and still, in the midst of all these fantastic items, many images stand out and never cease to amaze us. We had not thought of this series of 12 photographs of Igor Stravinsky in a while, and when it was mentioned during a staff meeting a couple of weeks ago, we figured we just had to post it in our blog. There are many photographs of Stravinsky out there, but nothing compares to these ones, where we can see him right in the middle of a rehearsal and we get a glimpse of this astonishing composer in the process of conducting one of his own works.

RBSC_Frmd_Port_008Here he is 80 years old in 1962, nine years before his death. He’s rehearsing the Firebird Suite with the New York Philharmonic at Lewisohn Stadium in New York City. The images were captured by Fred Fehl, a photographer specializing in performance photography and who brought us outstanding images of many other artists as well, like Martha Graham, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Joan Sutherland.

When these photographs were taken, long gone were the times when Stravinsky was booed in a public performance: that was back in 1913 and the Parisian theatre had been packed and filled with expectation. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring had barely begun when the hostile crowds started laughing (the cue for Stravinsky to leave the auditorium and get to the stage wings, from where he watched the rest of the performance). The laughter developed into a full-on attack between factions in the audience and later on towards the orchestra members and the dancers. After the police expelled some of the worst offenders, the performance continued in relative peace. I guess that in this particular performance the Rite of Spring’s “Sacrificial Dance” came earlier, and we all know whom the sacrificed victim was.

These photographs show a Stravinsky riding the crest of the wave with one of the best orchestras in the world, and although no one ever forgot what happened during that fateful premiere almost fifty years before, everybody ultimately took the negative reaction as a sign of a true genius who not everyone could understand, one who was so ahead of his time that he aroused rage before stirring gasps of utter astonishment.

The series is part of UBC Library Framed Works Collection, which includes exceptional photographs, prints, and documentary artworks, all originating from diverse sources.


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Upcoming Project: Asian Rare Books

Posted on November 15, 2013 @1:11 pm by Rob

A page from 熊廷弼、楊漣書札 [Xiong Tingbi & Yang Lian shu zha] showing 龐鏡塘藏 [Pang Jingtang's] seal (circled)

A page from 熊廷弼、楊漣書札 [Xiong Tingbi & Yang Lian shu zha] showing 龐鏡塘藏 [Pang Jingtang’s] seal (circled)

In January 2014 the UBC Library Digitization Centre will start a project to digitize titles from its Asian Library rare book collection. The project is a collaboration between the UBC Library and the Sun Yat-sen Library of Guangdong province in China. There are many rare and unique titles in the collection which makes is of particular interest to scholars in China and around the world. There is currently a pilot collection and titles will be added as materials are digitized and metadata is created. The image above is from the title 熊廷弼、楊漣書札 [Xiong Tingbi & Yang Lian shu zha], a work on the history of the Ming dynasty, and shows a page with various seals including that of 龐鏡塘藏 [Pang Jingtang] (circled in red) for whom one part of the collection is named. Pang Jingtang owned a variety of important works on history, literature and military matters.

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So Old, and Yet So New

Posted on November 5, 2013 @1:54 pm by esquin

The Spanish Chant Manuscript is one of our oldest digitized books, dating from sometime between 1575 and 1625. Chant manuscripts from Renaissance Spain can be richly illuminated, like this particular one, which features gold leaf and a very ornamented design. At the time, most antiphonaries (or choral books) used a four-line staff for the notation of plainchant, whereas the Spanish Chant Manuscript uses the five-line staff that would become the norm in the 17th Century. This is the first digitized copy of this superb volume of Gregorian chants, written in ecclesiastical Latin and compiled by the Catholic Church in Logroño, Spain.

Spanish-ChantIn page 8 of the volume, displayed here, we can see the stylistic elements of its illuminations and an elegant handwritten script characteristic of this kind of liturgical work. The manuscript can be found in UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections (M2149.L32 S6 1575).

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Kinesis is now available online!

Posted on October 21, 2013 @9:40 am by esquin

Gender and social justice researchers worldwide –as well as the general public interested in the feminist movement in Canada– will be happy to know of this digital collection that is now freely available online: Kinesis: News about women that is not in the dailies, published by the Vancouver Status of Women (VSW) from 1974 to 2001.

kinesis_blogThis image (the paper’s cover from April 1980) is a good example of what visitors can find in the collection: photographs and articles on issues of particular interest to women and created by feminist voices working to combat all forms of marginalization. This particular issue includes an account of the celebration of that year’s International Women’s Day, interviews with five women on their professional development, and a feature article on the stigma of illegitimacy and the struggle of single mothers to care for their children by themselves.

This digital collection is a product of a collaborative initiative with the Vancouver Status of Women, the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, and Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC. Although Kinesis is no longer being published, it has a permanent home for browsing and critical analysis in the UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections division, and now in our digital collections.

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Emma Crosby Letters collection

Posted on October 11, 2013 @2:00 pm by esquin

Beyond our personal reservations regarding evangelism and the missionary enterprise, Emma Crosby Letters collection is exceptionally interesting because it lets us see two very different perspectives on how women lived in the 19th century and on their personal struggles. On one side, we can see how the gender limitations of the time made it impossible for well-to-do women in Canada to pursue a missionary career unless they married a missionary man, and on the other we get a glimpse of what the missionary teachings meant to the Aboriginal girls subjected to them.

The daughter of a Methodist minister in Ontario, Emma Crosby studied at Hamilton’s Wesleyan Female College and became a teacher. She was in her mid-twenties when she attended a lecture by Thomas Crosby on the importance of teaching the “savages” the Christian ways. He was then working as a missionary in British Columbia and needed a wife. As for Emma, she was looking for a missionary husband, so the deal was soon signed and started a strong marriage that ended with his death in 1914, after 23 years spent among the Tsimshian people. Thanks to Emma’s granddaughter and great-granddaughter’s donation to UBC’s Special Collections Division, we can now read the letters Emma exchanged with her mother and her husband from 1874 to 1892, as well as those sent between Thomas Crosby and the Port Simpson people.

One of the many letters Emma wrote to her mother, this one from 1879.

One of the many letters Emma wrote to her mother, this one from 1879.

Isolated in a small Tsimshian community on British Columbia’s northern coast, Emma Crosby both assisted her husband in all of his responsibilities as a missionary and replaced him in most mission activities when he was away in his ship, the Glad Tidings, reaching out to communities as far away as Alaska. Thomas, now considered by some as one of the most important Methodist missionaries in Canada, was fast to recognize that Emma was a big part of his missionary work in the far north. On top of helping her husband, Emma taught at the mission day school and originated a girls’ residential school in 1880, when this system was coming to existence across the country. In the meantime, she gave birth to eight children, only four of whom survived.

Many Aboriginal girls came into Emma’s care, mostly because they had no other choice, and while they helped Emma to maintain her home and take care of her children—allowing her to tackle her mission activities—they were evangelized and trained to maintain a “civilized”, Victorian home. The living arrangements of these girls and of many others changed in 1880, when the residential school was built. Although this ‘Home’ was supposed to be a safe place where the girls would be protected and taught the Christian faith, it soon became a place of confinement with harsh rules preparing the girls for submission to their future husbands.

This unprecedented collection of letters (transcribed for the reader’s benefit) will surely answer many questions, but will also give rise to many others. To answer those new ones you can turn to Good Intentions Gone Awry, by Jan Hare and Jean Barman (http://resolve.library.ubc.ca/cgi-bin/catsearch?bid=4191578), a volume you can find in the UBC Library or read online through the library’s portal.

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