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.”

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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History and Hockey

Posted on June 14, 2017 @2:10 pm by kristina mcguirk

Hockey season may be over for the Canucks, but with a long history, the sport lives all year in our collections!


Women’s field hockey team, circa 1898


UBC women’s ice hockey, 1921


Hockey game against Czechoslovakia, 1980


1950s field hockey with Oxford-Cambridge


McGill women’s grass hockey, 1911


Canadian field hockey pioneer Dr. Harry Warren pictured with children (no date)


Smith Falls High School hockey (no date)


Women’s grass hockey, 1944


Ice hockey, 1939


Canadian women’s field hockey champions, 1980/81


If it’s the sounds of hockey you’re missing, we have an hour-long broadcast of a 1974 ice hockey game against Alberta you can listen to here.


Interior Inspiration

Posted on June 8, 2017 @9:26 am by kristina mcguirk

Planning a remodel? Want to refresh your decor? You just might catch the renovation bug after checking out these spaces!

Perhaps vintage log cabin is your style: nature-inspired and cozy.

Interior view of log cabin, circa 1933

How about a touch of Spanish flair? Milk glass lighting, plenty of greenery and a mix of stripes with more intricate tile patterns.

A courtyard in Blanes, Spain, between 1940 and 1950

Go glam nerd — but not too glam — by pairing a bold accent color and chandelier with some fresh flowers and books. If it’s good enough for Queen Elizabeth’s visit, it’s good for us.

UBC Faculty Club, Royal visit 1959

Logging camp has a farmhouse vibe that benefits from lots of white paint and using everyday utensils as storage.

MacMillan Bloedel Limited kitchen, 1907

Deep woods and rich leathers are the trademark of nautical smoking lounge style. Also, if you love chevron but hate that it’s out of style, here’s proof that chevron was a thing long before the 2010s. This whole look is #timeless.

Smoking room aboard the first C.P. R.M.S. Empress of Scotland, 1921

If you prefer a more contemporary approach, lab chic has you covered: Open shelving shows some personality, and a table instead of a desk makes the space feel less cluttered. Metal bar stools enhance the modern discomfort vibes.

Laboratory, Fairview campus

Vacation is a graphic style that merges striking patterns in an energizing way that tells others, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!”

Verandah and bedroom suite of the second C.P. R.M.S. Empress of Japan, 1930s

Love all the barn wood wall coverings you see at cafes? How about industrial lighting with exposed bulbs? Early hipster coffeehouse combines both trends.

Cook House, Capilano Timber Company


And, finally, with any design project, the devil is in the details. Here are a few takeaways that you can apply to any decor.

Leggy trough sinks with exposed plumbing and wall-mount faucets – they’re pretty and very practical for hand-washing your clothes. And that fold-out ironing board is just too practical!

Fort Camp laundry room

Wall-mount phones are back! Okay maybe not, but this office offers some advice for your own home workspace, like it’s A-OK to display multiple calendars (who doesn’t love calendars?). Also storage can be sensible and decorative – just check out that mesh letter holder hung on the wall.

View of interior office, 1920, Capilano Timber Company

There’s a lot to take in here, but the faceted door really grabs your attention.

P.S.S. Kathleen smoke room alcove, 1924

And in case you’ve been looking for the perfect place to add that family (or alma mater) crest, doorknobs make a delightful unexpected detail.

University Librarian’s office, 2003




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Digital Collections Reading List

Posted on May 25, 2017 @3:47 pm by kristina mcguirk

When we came across a “tribute list” in our collections, we couldn’t stop thinking about the Hunger Games trilogy—(Hey! Suzanne Collins! We’d be pretty into another series of districts set on a different continent, or in another time period)—and we realized there were a lot of other times we thought of books related to the collection, too. And thus, the Digital Collections Reading List was born.

This is a completely biased list from this writer’s experiences—if you’ve got other ideas of bookish inspiration from our collections, we’d love to know, so comment below!

  1. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins 
    Inspired by Athenian Tribute List 15.
  2. His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman
    We’re hoping there are other worlds on the Aurora Borealis.

  3. Diamonds Are Forever by Ian Fleming 
    There’s some race fixing at the horse track that didn’t make it to the film.
  4.  The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
    The Chutes/Playland area the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, just the place you might meet an Eddie.
  5. The History of the Dividing Line by William Byrd
    The Andrew McCormick collection always make us think of the tale of the Virginia-North Carolina border.
  6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
    Parties and forested bacchanals among Classically minded friends.
  7. “The Body” in Different Seasons by Stephen King
    Whether the movie or the book, it’s hard to shake the train scene.
  8. Drood by Dan Simmons
    Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens frequent London’s opium dens.
  9. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
    Passengers pictured here are floating down the Nile decades before Christie’s story.
  10. Musashi by Fiji Yoshikawa and Shōgun by James Clavell
    We are doubly inspired by the Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era collection.
  11. A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean
    This is just in case the Hawthorn Fly Fishing & Angling Collection of books isn’t enough on its own.
  12. No Nest for the Wicket by Donna Andrews 
    A good pun is a strong reason to add a book to the TBR list.
  13. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 
    Is he next to a portrait of himself?
  14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    Not quite the raft, but a nice option for Huck and Jim.
  15. On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, and Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
    This book is not at all, and yet a bit like all three; maybe it’s the first-person narrative (quote page 6).




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Newspapers: Now & Then

Posted on May 18, 2017 @8:52 am by kristina mcguirk

Our collection of BC Historical Newspapers brings a lot of traffic to our website—and it feeds a lot of our blog posts, too! We get lost flipping through the pages of time, but the papers always find a way to bring us back to the present.

For instance, the way newspapers were totally the precursor to Facebook.

The Abbotsford Post, July 1, 1910.


And there’s the way something written conversationally really can be impossible to read. Honestly, we have no idea where or what the motherlode is, or to whom it belongs.

The Bennett Sun, August 5, 1899.


Reading Rooms and Circulating Libraries! We just can’t get enough of them in the RBSC Bookplates digital collection.

The Cariboo Sentinel, October 14, 1865.


Paying for school: it’s a real pickle now, too. We all know one of those entrepreneurial Doris-types.

Preston Review, November 24, 1933


Newspaper ads, foreshadowing texting since the 1910s. No idea what this is supposed to stand for, but we definitely LOL’ed when we saw it.

The Hedley Gazette, August 29, 1912


Before The Magic School Bus there was the family meat market.

Queen Charlotte Islander, April 25, 1914.


A now-ancient predecessor to live tweeting.

Nelson Daily Miner, January 20, 1901


When scrapbooking meets graphic design in the news world: the result sure feels like a graphic novel.

The Grand Forks Sun and Kettle Valley Orchardist, April 27, 1923


And, finally, those things you just don’t get to do anymore, like shopping for an upholstered chaise while waiting for your embalming to be finished.

The Boundary Creek Times, March 8, 1899

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An Ode to IKBLC

Posted on May 11, 2017 @8:57 am by kristina mcguirk

Digitizing content for our digital collections happens five days a week in the basement of the Irving K Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC) on UBC’s Vancouver campus. While we pass many hours in the Digitization Centre (here’s a bit about our work space from 2014), most of the digitization crew also spends a lot of time in IKBLC in general: the building includes the Music, Art, and Architecture Library, University Archives, Rare Books and Special Collections, and the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies. Plus, there’s a cafe. And gorgeous study spaces. And this building includes the Main Library, one of the first buildings on campus.

This is all to say, we pass our days in a pretty cool place, and this post is dedicated to our home away from home.


The library began as a concept for the Point Grey campus, and its construction was the result of student demonstrations in 1922 (now known as the Great Trek).

1923 Sharp and Thompson plan for the Main Library.


The building opened with the inauguration of the new campus in 1925. There are some interesting stories behind the library’s development leading to this point, including WWI spies and a public stand for the theory of evolution. There’s also a faked photo of the early library that was published in 1970s.

Point Grey campus, 1925.


The exterior gained landscaping, including a pond, in its early years. There’s still a water feature today.

The original entrance, pictured here in 1931, remains a popular place for photos.


The interior included study spaces and stacks.

A rather captivating capture of angles in the library in 1929.


It appears this reading room did not change much in the first 20 years, although some artwork was later added to the walls. Today known as the Chapman Learning Commons, the long tables, stacks (the far right, dark area) and card catalogues (left, along the wall) are replaced by cozy chairs and computer terminals. The alcove room in the background (now called the Dodson room) holds many speakers and events.

Reading room when the library opened in 1925.


The Library gained a wing in 1947. The second wing was added in the 1960s.

Sunnin’ on the lawn in March 1957.


There are a lot of technological advances in the history of this building, too, from the card catalogue and the bindery to the computer circulation terminal in 1965 (topt row), to the microfiche catalogue, the listening room, and the army of now-dated looking desktop computers in 2003 (bottom row).

From 2004 – 2008 the wings, as well as much of the interior of the Main Library, were replaced with more modern architecture and amenities (this can be seen on the IKBLC website) to become the space we know and love today.

If you’re as into this building as we are, there’s plenty more to see and read! We shared some highlights of its 94-year life pulled from the rich histories produced on campus: UBC Archives provides photos and renderings and information about the development of the building itself in the Building the Main Library 1923-1925  and the Main Library Architectural Drawings (1923-1964) collection, and the UBC Library also has an in-depth historical timeline for all the details of the Main Library and other branches. You can even take a virtual tour of the building.

View of building before the original wings were demolished, taken in 2002 from the Walter C. Koerner Library.


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Say Cheese!

Posted on April 25, 2017 @10:33 am by kristina mcguirk

Our collections feature thousands of photos, from natural wonders to family portraits, but it’s rare to see the person behind the lens—or even the lens itself. Practically, it makes sense, but nonetheless we love seeing the vintage models and often-smiling faces behind them.


Style circa 1916.


1926 photographers on a cruise.


Action shot, estimated sometime between 1940 and 1950.


1929 escapades.


There’s some serious nature photography happening here.


Quick capture circa 1916.


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UBC Publications

Posted on April 18, 2017 @12:11 pm by kristina mcguirk

What do the Science Undergraduate Society, UBC Botanical Garden, and Frederic Wood Theatre have in common?

They’re all part of our UBC Publications collection! You might expect to find yearbooks, student handbooks, and the Ubyssey—and you wouldn’t be wrong—but UBC Publications also includes a diverse assortment of reports and publications from university organizations. Check out what’s been going on the last 100 years.


The 432 A publication of the University of British Columbia Science Undergraduate Society (UBC SUS). Our collection covers 1987 to 2002, and you’ll find news and information, events and faculty information, and a whole lot of sass.

This issue includes an irreverent guide to the SUS lounge, the struggle of buying a Nokia 6160, and a few references to 22 oz science beer mugs.


Creative Giving Previously titled “Endowments and Donations” (1945 to 1947) and “Gifts, Grants and Bequests” (1948 to 1966), this publication annually covers gifts to the university. While later issues tend to be lists of financial donors, earlier issues include such creative gifting as rose bushes, models of mushrooms, and barrels of pulp mill spent cooking liquor.

Mushroom models and Shakespeare’s pals.


Davidsonia Produced by the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, our collection covers the 1970 – 1981 publishing run of Davidsonia. The publication was named after John Davidson: B.C.’s first Provincial Botanist, instructor in UBC’s Department of Botany, and the founder of the UBC Botanical Garden. In it you can find stories about children’s vegetable garden programs and mixed hanging baskets.


FOCUS  (now known as Innovations) comes form UBC’s Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems (ICICS). Get a feel for how the field developed from 1990 – 2014, including increasing industrial productivity with mechatronics, software and hardware debugging, and estimating optical flow with toys.

Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man: foe of Ghostbusters, friend of science.


Indian Education Newsletter Published by the Indian Education Resource Center established in 1970 at UBC. The publication ran until 1977, and covers information like Aboriginal issues and resources available at the center.


Trek Previously titled the Graduate Chronicle and UBC Alumni Chronicle, this pub has been communicating to alumni about the university, and to alumni about other alumni, since 1931. In addition to local news and updates, the periodical includes photos and illustrations, and, one of the most entertaining parts, advertisements.

Advert for the Sun, 1951.


UBC Theatre Programs Explore theatre programs (1915 to 1991) from UBC actors and the Frederic Wood Theatre.

And there are many more publications to explore!

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