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.”

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.



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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World Travel Photo Album

Posted on April 11, 2017 @9:35 am by kristina mcguirk

We can’t deny it (nor do we want to!): we have an inspiring collection of travel-related items. The Chung Collection’s Canadian Pacific Railway Company materials kindle the romance of adventuring the continent by train or the globe by cruise ship, and many travelogues, maps, photographs, and other ephemera are are nestled in our other collections.

There’s one particular item that’s causing some serious wanderlust right now: the [World Travel Photo Album]This album captures a Canadian family’s extensive journeying at home and abroad between 1900 and 1950. The 778 photographs include snapshots of iconic travel destinations frozen in time.

The clothes! The cars! The lack of selfies!

Feeling trapped by the endless winter but don’t have the time or money to make your own grand voyage? Thanks to our digital collections you can be a time-traveling globetrotter from the comforts of your own home. Enjoy.


Bridge of Sighs in Venice, Italy


The racy coast of Monte-Carlo, Monaco


Pyramids and a Sphinx that tried to hide in the background of this photo in Giza, Egypt


View of Istanbul, Turkey, from the sea, including the Hagia Sophia


The Leaning Tower in Pisa, Italy


The walled fortress city of Cartagena, Colombia


The Acropolis in Athens, Greece


The Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel


Bullfighting in Toledo, Spain


The Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum in Rome, Italy


Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Warwickshire county, England


Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona, Spain


The ruins of Pompeii, Italy

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It’s Reading Week here at UBC!

Posted on April 4, 2017 @1:05 pm by kristina mcguirk

It’s hotly debated whether students use this week to catch up on the homework they’ve neglected, or indulge in the reading-for-fun they put off during the term, or to do absolutely no reading and enjoy all the other activities that Vancouver has to offer. Ironic or not, we’re running with reading as this week’s theme for exploring our collections.

Before we share a few of our favourite depictions, here’s a list—care of The Cumberland News in 1901—of “amusing books… for relaxation only” for you to consider checking out this Reading Week.


Now, on to the homage of readers and reading. 


Laura Glenn—chairman of the Canadian Red Cross Corps in Windsor, Ontario, and a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II—reads “A Great Time to Be Alive.”


UBC President Dr. Norman MacKenzie reads on the deck of a ship.


A cozy chair, plenty to read, and even a cocktail!


WWI sentry reading a letter on the front lines.


UBC’s Crane Library acquired a machine to help visually impaired students read.


A UBC grad student helping children get an early start at reading.


An Art Deco depiction of reading.


More reading on the Western Front.


Enjoying the best of Reading Week: reading and relaxing in the great outdoors.

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Love and Croquet

Posted on March 28, 2017 @11:33 am by kristina mcguirk

After scrolling through just a few pages of the many images in the Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection, it quickly became apparent that croquet just had to be the topic for our Valentine’s week post. Because croquet is definitely flirty.

As evidenced even in our own collection by the many items surrounding the period, the sport was wildly popular in the Victorian era: a time when morality was championed, women wore modest clothing, and relationships required an outward appearance of the utmost propriety. Croquet was one of the few sports approved for women because of its casual pace, the lack of physical contact, and the fact that they could still play while wearing layers of restrictive dresses.

But judging by depictions from the era, croquet was also an opportunity for men and women to intermingle in public—one might even say intimately—without breaking societal rules.


While the foreground prompts the title (“A critical moment”) and draws the main attention of this piece, we see some close encounters in the background.


We’re thinking the excitement wasn’t just the thrill of the sport.


A romantic moment between plays.


A little lift of the skirt to get the best shot.


Seeking solitude amidst the game.


Croquet might just be the means to flirt your way into your Valentine’s heart this week! But since not everyone has a special someone to meet on the lawn, it’s important to keep a couple lessons in mind as well.


If you’re making it a gal-entine’s day: do flirt with the handsome bearded man playing nearby on the lawn, but maybe don’t hold up the game and annoy your pals. Someone might take your turn.


If you’re feeling you are “not attracting sufficient notice” don’t be this guy and beg for attention in a dramatic fashion. That’s just too much for the dignified game of croquet.



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Color Our Collections 2017

Posted on March 23, 2017 @10:16 am by kristina mcguirk

A croquet match, in black & white and color, from the Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection.


Following #ColorOurCollections last year was so much fun, we decided to bring some pages to our blog. We’ve selected from a few sources to show off just a bit of the variety in our digital collections, and we think we’ve found a little something for everyone, from landlocked to nautical and town to country—including persons, places, things, and animals!

Color Our Collections is February 6 -10. Follow along on Twitter #ColorOurCollections (and #colourourcollections), and check out some of our compatriots who are also adding pages to your digital collection coloring books: @umarchives, @westernulibsARC, @McGillLib. 

For best colour-a-bility (that’s totally a word, right?) click the image and download the hi-res version of the file from our Open Collections. [To download, click the down-arrow icon at the top left of the image area. It’s in the row with the crop and keyboard icons.]  These are large files, so don’t worry, you can totally obsess over details like fish scales and architectural features.


Map of Vancouver in 1890


By M. Duhamel du Monceau from “Traité général des perches” collection


Illustration near Picton, Ontario



By M. Duhamel du Monceau from “Traité général des perches” collection


A drawing of the UBC library (now the foundation for the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre) by John Ridington


By M. Duhamel du Monceau from “Traité général des perches” collection


Scenes from Ontario


Follow the links, download the images, and get coloring! Then, share your finished results with us on Twitter using the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and by tagging @DigitizeUBC.

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A Ramble in British Columbia

Posted on March 16, 2017 @9:40 am by kristina mcguirk

There are over 1,300 items in B.C. Historical Books, a collection showcasing the history of British Columbia from 1783 to 1952 (and, eventually, beyond). Early works include travelogues that tell tales of grand landscapes, meeting strangers, and surviving in the wilderness. One book that caught our attention is B.C. 1887 : A Ramble in British Columbia.

Have you read the Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins? If so, this book is definitely for you. If not, it’s probably still for you. Ramble covers the travels of three men who set out from England to explore Canada’s suitability to the ex-pat lifestyle. (You’ll get their verdict in the final chapter.)

The authors, J.A. Lees and Walter J. Clutterbuck, had published a travelogue, Three In Norwayfive years earlier. That book tells the story of three friends—who call themselves the Skipper, Esau, and John—hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting their way through a Norwegian summer. Ramble continues the dry, irreverent tone of the first novel, but with a new crew at its core: since Norway, John has married and left the group, so the Skipper and Esau (who is now going by Jim) are joined by Cardie.



Like all good travelogues, Ramble is filled with sensory descriptions, first impressions, foods, and illustrations and photographs from the authors themselves. The difference, to some more straightforward travel writing, is its playfully uncensored and unforgiving voice. No one place, person, animal, or activity is safe from their disparagement.


Our apologies to Toronto for sharing this passage. (page 33)


Now that’s how to make an entrance. (page 51)


A quick narrative detour to give some grief to the American midwest. Anyone who’s traveled or lived in less-populated areas will recognize the “middle of nowhere” truth in their humor.


Definitely something to write home about. (page 382)


We have said a lot about the commentary and writing style of Ramble, but don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t a travelers’ tale. There’s plenty of in-the-woods action to help you visualize life in early British Columbia.

In some ways, the beautiful B.C. hasn’t changed much in the last 130 years.


Whether you’re in it for the humor, the history, or the writers’ hubris, you can check out B.C. 1887 : A Ramble in British Columbia thanks to Open Collections.

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Indulging Our Sweet Tooth

Posted on March 9, 2017 @9:37 am by kristina mcguirk

Perhaps you’re the type to want a sugary afternoon pick-me-up. Maybe you look forward to a sweet end after a long, tiring day. Perchance the ides of winter has you craving comfort foods. Or, you just might subscribe to the let-them-eat-cake lifestyle.

Whatever the case, it’s not quite the end of January, and if you’re one of the 65% of Canadians looking to use the new year as a fresh start to a healthier lifestyle, you probably aren’t ready to give in to your sweet tooth. We’re with you—which is how we found ourselves trolling the digital collections for cookies one afternoon (a virtual cheat day). There is a lot to take in, but with the benefit of avoiding both cavities and broken resolutions.

UBC Publications and UBC Archives Photograph Collection desserts are feats of science and architecture!

We didn’t believe it, either, but this photo is definitely about pie: the caption draws your attention to a lemon meringue at the bottom left corner.


We know a few folks might find this cake pretty RAD (sorry for the pun, archives grads). This library cake was centre stage at the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies 25th anniversary party.


The Chung Collection lets your tastes travel the world while offering some light reading while on the culinary trek.

Canadian Pacific travelers to Chateau Frontenac were offered a stellar array of desserts, from pudding, pie, cake and ice cream to fruits, nuts, and cheeses.


A cautionary tale about having dogs or hurrying… we’re not sure which. But definitely not a cautionary tale about pies!


UBC Archives Photograph Collection also plays host to some fine forms for confectionary treats.

Do you want to build a snow man? Always, but especially if it’s a sugar-cookie base.


There’s a certain allure to this birthday cake, and we’re guessing Joe was all about that bass. (OK, seriously, puns are done.)


Finally, incase we’ve enticed you into baking, the BC Historical Newspapers are a gold mine for recipes and sweet treats.

A “cheap and good” cookie recipe and cinnamon cake? Excellent. But you better be comfortable with guessing cooking times, Millicent, because Cynthia isn’t going to do it all for you.


Cottage Pie, Stuffed Dates, and Raisin Pie: If you love these vintage dishes, you can check later issues of the Cumberland Islander to see if the sought-after steam fig pudding, salmon salad, oatmeal cookies, or sour milk doughnut recipes make it to print.




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Happy Birthday, A.A. Milne!

Posted on January 20, 2017 @9:33 am by kristina mcguirk

English author A.A. Milne was born this week (January 18th) in 1882. Beloved for his creation of Hundred Acre Wood, the home of Winnie-The-Pooh, Milne’s work captured the imaginations of children and adults alike, and our collections include many shoutouts to the author and his famous fictional friends. From inspiring a faculty party in 1942 to maintaining top-villain status in 2014, Milne has a place in UBC history, too.


The Arts-Aggie Ball in 1942 featured a Pooh theme. Notice the stuffed animals in the top right photo!


Professor Sheila Egoff, of UBC’s then-titled School of Librarianship, cites Milne’s works among the best of children’s literature in this edition of UBC Reports published by Information Services.


A musical group featured in Discarder in 1993 pays homage to an often-remembered Pooh storyline.


In 1996, UBC summer theatre included a popular reading of Bears, a new musical with lyrics by Milne.



In the March 30, 2014 issue of The Ubyssey a UBC Thunderbird team captain gives a nod to Millne’s scary Heffalumps and Woozles.


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