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.”

Explore Open Collections – Fisherman Publishing Society

Posted on November 2, 2016 @11:03 am by Alyssa Hamer

The Fisherman Publishing Society formed in 1937 in order to publish The Fisherman, a newspaper that was jointly sponsored by the Salmon Purse Seiners Union and the Pacific Coast Fishermen’s Union. The newspaper highlighted industry and union events and promoted unity among fishermen along the West Coast.


Eulachons being unloaded at the Fraser River Fish Company dock at New Westminster, 1950

As one of the founding industries which led to the development and growth of British Columbia’s towns and cities, fishing and fisheries have historically played a large part in the lives of many people living on the West Coast, and continue to this day. Although the industry has seen its share of highs and lows, the photographs in this collection feature some of the incredible hauls that were captured, the vessels that were once so common to our shores, and the many people from diverse backgrounds involved, including First Nations, Chinese and Japanese peoples, Indo-Canadians and Europeans.


United Fishermen and Allied Workers Union protest meeting concerning Steveston Imperial, 1962


Fishing from seine boat with nets and rowboat, 1972


Whale on dock at Coal Harbour, British Columbia, date unknown


Ship cooks course at Vancouver School Board, 1960


View of the boat “Spray No.1”, 1962


View of halibut caught and displayed, date unknown


Views of the “Canfisco”, 1971

Enjoy the unique photos from this bygone era, and be sure to enjoy the full Fisherman Publishing Society collection at Open Collections!

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Explore Open Collections – Capilano Timber Company

Posted on November 16, 2016 @10:38 am by Alyssa Hamer

UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections houses a number of rare materials relating to the logging and forestry industry in Vancouver and its surrounding regions. One such collection is that of the Capilano Timber Company, which operated on the North Shore for a fifteen-year period between 1915 and 1930.


Canadian Pacific Railway party, 1920


View of high rigger with axe standing beside another employee, 1920

In 1917, the American owned company began to aggressively log the watershed – the demand for high-quality lumber to construct aeroplanes during World War I meant the company received a high return on their investment. Given the steep terrain and narrow valleys on the North Shore, Capilano Timber Co. was forced to build a logging railway in order to get the timber to tidewater. By February 1919, 12.8km of track led in to the Capilano valley. Timber bridges were also necessary to move people and materials along the valley – the most impressive being the Houlgate trestle, which reached a height of 27 metres and spanned a length of 120 metres.


View of bridge construction, 1918


30 tonne Grand Locomotive, 1918


Log dump and derrick

At its peak, the Capilano Timber Co. employed 250 men cutting over 150,000 feet per day. Their living quarters were considered “civilization in the bush”: they had indoor taps running hot water, showers, and dining cars that served bacon, eggs and hotcakes for breakfast, and steaks, stews and pies for dinner. The company even invested in constructing houses for married couples, in order to attract a stable permanent workforce – although it’s not clear how successful this experiment was.


View of interior dining camp train car, 1919


Train full of people observing a logged forest

In 1925, the Capilano Timber Co. sold unmanufactured logs to local mills; however, by 1926 they had completed their own mill, and began to process thousands of feet of cedar, hemlock and fir. Just when operations were expanding rapidly and profits were at their peak, the 1929  economic depression hit and the Capilano mill was forced to close down.


View of two men at work, 1920

In its fifteen years of operation, the company harvested approximately 400,000,000 feet of timber, laid 80 kilometers of railway tracks, and spent $9,000,000 on wages and equipment. The company also left in its wake clear-cut and barren forests which were prone to washouts and forest fires for decades after the company’s operations ceased. In the intervening years many conservationists and local governments have attempted to rehabilitate the Capilano watershed region, and today it’s a source of much of Vancouver’s potable household water.  If you would like to learn more about the Capilano Timber Company, take a look at Anna Gabrielle Kahrer’s 1988 MA thesis paper titled Logging and landscape change on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, British Columbia, 1860’s to 1930’s in UBC’s scholarly repository, cIRcle. And be sure to check out the full collection of photographs in Open Collections!


Capilano River and the Lions, North Vancouver B.C.

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Explore Open Collections – World War I British Press Photos

Posted on October 12, 2016 @10:13 am by Alyssa Hamer

UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections houses a selection of over 3,000 wartime images by the British Press. These photographs were approved by the British government during World War I and were distributed to overseas diplomats to be used in official projects. They depict the everyday drudgery, but also the humour and energy, of the soldiers and military personnel on the ground, as well as of those on the home front. It is an eclectic mix of images, and provides a multifaceted view of life during the Great War.

The University acquired these photographs in the 1930’s through the British Consulate in Seattle. Originals of these print copies, as well as thousands of other images, are available through Britain’s Imperial War Museum.

For a Canadian perspective on World War I, the Canadian War Museum has an online exhibition on Canada’s involvement and contribution to the First World War.

Click on any of the images below for more information.


Reading the newspaper from the trenches


Funeral of M. Basset – Distinguished dramatist and war correspondent


Ward at base hospital


The Battle of Flanders – Not the work of u-boats but a shell hole in a gasometer


“Sandbags instead of handbags” – lady ambulance drivers


Succoring a wounded soldier


Pilot and dog


Salvaging parts of plane


Nurse lights a soldier’s cigarette


British women working in lace factory in Nottingham


Wounded soldiers at a base hospital show their little mascot, a small black kitten


Service held to mark the commencement of 4th year of the war

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Back to School!

Posted on September 14, 2016 @11:54 am by Alyssa Hamer

It’s that time of year again – fall is just around the corner, and a new school year has begun. Whether you’re new to the UBC campus community, returning for another semester, or graduated long ago, it can be an exciting and even nostalgic time. Returning to school for a new year can be a rite of passage as we grow up, and many of our fondest memories and closest friendships can form in places of learning.

We’ve searched Open Collections to find the best back-to-school images – enjoy the photographs below, and click on any of them for more information.


School children at Fairview School, between 1910 and 1919



University Hill School, 1928


University Hill school class picture, 1928


Strathcona Elementary school kindergarten class, before 1910


High school and gymnasium, Powell River, 1947


Students of Model School, 1902


Britannia High School class picture, after 1950


Tashme Japanese internment camp Secondary School teachers


Students in language laboratory, 1974


UBC Education students visit Queen Charlotte Islands, 1973

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Explore Open Collections – Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection

Posted on November 23, 2016 @11:53 am by Alyssa Hamer

The Japanese community has had a long history in British Columbia, beginning with the first Japanese person to land on the coast in 1877, a sailor named Manzo Nagano. For the next 70+ years, members of the Japanese community in the province achieved great success while also facing ongoing prejudice and racism, as early settlers in B.C. struggled to accept these new immigrants.

In 1907, Anti-Oriental riots shook various coastal cities along the Pacific, including Vancouver. Pervasive racism, intolerance and economic instability led to extensive damage to Asian-owned properties throughout the city, and prompted the Japanese government to stop emigration of its nationals to Canada.


Building on Powell St. damaged during 1907 race riots, Vancouver

In February of 1942, in reaction to the events at Pearl Harbor, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King issued a decree to evacuate all Japanese Canadians to “protective areas”, also known as internment camps. Men, women and children, many of whom were themselves born and raised in British Columbia, were relocated to the camps, and much of their property confiscated by the provincial government.


Truck transporting Japanese Canadian men to Tashme camp


Japanese Canadians being processed in Slocan


Group photograph at Slocan camp


Two men at internment camp , perhaps in Angler, ON.


Group of children at Lemon Creek camp


Group of Japanese Canadian girls participating in Bon-Odori (summer festival) at Greenwood camp

This collection documents these events while offering insight into the everyday lives of Japanese Canadians living in British Columbia throughout the 20th century. To learn more about this important collection, click here.



Shigetaka Sasaki family


Mrs. Shigejiro Edamura in front of an unidentified store


Mrs. Ume Niwatsukino with children Hisako, Hiroshi and Shigeru in Steveston, 1926

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Explore Open Collections – Andrew McCormick Maps & Prints

Posted on October 19, 2016 @11:18 am by Alyssa Hamer

­The Andrew McCormick collection contains nearly 200 historical maps and illustrations which document the history of early European maritime exploration, cartographic evolution and settlement in North America. The documents were donated to UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections by Dr. Andrew Quinn McCormick, a well-respected former faculty member in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Documenting more than three centuries of exploration, these maps offer an intriguing look at what explorers got right, as well as what they got wrong, in their quest to “discover” the New World. Enjoy these relics from the Age of Exploration, and be sure to visit the full collection of Andrew McCormick’s Maps & Prints to view all of these remarkable resources.


An elaborate hand coloured print illustration of two medieval scenes, ca. 1575


An engraved print depicting the conception of North America, Asia, the north Pacific Rim and Arctic, 1772

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Engraved map of West Canada, ca. 1851


Engraved map of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, ca. 1851


Map of the Northern Hemisphere, date unknown


Map depicting continents in an unfamiliar configuration, date unknown


The solar system, ca. 1759

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Engraved & hand-coloured print with many rarities and interesting geographical features, 1700

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Celebrate World Fashion Day

Posted on October 12, 2016 @10:14 am by Alyssa Hamer

You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head


For some fashion is frivolous, and for others it’s what makes the world go ‘round. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re on, though, our clothes speak volumes about who we are, where we’re from, and the time in which we live. August 21 is World Fashion Day, so to celebrate we have selected our favourite fashionable moments from Open Collections! Click on any of the images below for more information.


Portrait of women in Chinese-style dress, some time after 1920


Men in kilts, between 1919 and 1939


Woman in ceremonial Northwest Coast First Nations dress, 1980


Police officers in Suva, Fiji, ca. 1930’s

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Portrait of man with walking stick, some time after 1888


Woman getting fitted for a dress, 1949


Maori women sharing a Hongi salutation, ca. 1930’s

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International Youth Day 2016

Posted on September 1, 2016 @7:35 am by Alyssa Hamer

“Young people are not only our future — they are our present. Our planet has never been so young, with 1.8 billion young women and men. They are the most connected, the most outspoken and the most open-minded generation the world has ever seen.”

Irina Bokova
UNESCO Director-General

International Youth Day is being celebrated around the globe on August 12. In recognition of this important day, we’ve chosen some of our favourite pictures of young people from across Open Collections. Enjoy this selection of historical photos, and click on any of them for more information.


Teenagers playing a game of croquet, 1919


Young people presented with the Richmond Teen Town award, 1962

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Girl in traditional Japanese dress at UBC’s Japanese Bell Tower, 1987


Boys field hockey team, between 1919-1939


Young women having tea, ca. 1900

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Brother and sister with pet dog, 1937


Boys rugby team, possibly in Vancouver, 1937


Two Japanese girls in traditional dress at the Sandon Japanese Canadian internment camp, 1942

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How We Digitize – Early BC Historical Documents

Posted on September 29, 2016 @10:57 am by Alyssa Hamer

We often write about collections that have already been digitized, but today we want to give you a sneak peek of a forthcoming collection that we’re working on right now.

The BC Historical Documents are a variety of papers, correspondence and text that have been identified as being representative of the documentary history of early British Columbia. These documents highlight the growth and development of BC over time, and feature some key figures in our social and political history. This collection is made up primarily of personal papers, letters, photos and ledger books, as well as a number of educational records such as curriculums and class lists.


Two graduate students from UBC’s School of Library & Archival Studies are working on digitizing these records and adding metadata to them. Through this work, both have had the opportunity to interact with rare and interesting materials, including police reports, yearbooks and personal letters. In one instance, a set of yearbooks from the Provincial Normal School shows the direct impact of World War I, with the 1914/1915 graduating class being half the size of the previous year, and the 1915/1916 yearbook documenting former students who had gone to war, as well as those that had passed away.

A number of correspondence from noted politician and 12th premier of BC, Charles Semlin, demonstrate the complex balance between private and public life that political figures often must negotiate. In Semlin’s case, he was known as a conservative politician interested in curbing immigration from Asia and implementing wide-ranging reforms. Despite his divisive political leanings, however, Semlin was a source of financial support for numerous friends and acquaintances throughout his life, a fact well documented in his correspondences.

Across these historical documents, it is possible to gain greater perspective and appreciation for the many components which have contributed to the building of our province, and the variety of stories that make this place unique.

Stay tuned for more information about the Early BC Historical Documents collection!

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Explore Open Collections – R. Mathison Printing Collection

Posted on August 25, 2016 @10:28 am by Alyssa Hamer

The R. Mathison Printing Collection offers a fascinating glimpse into business and marketing practices in Vancouver at the close of the 19th century. In 1886, Robert Mathison opened his print shop just after a massive fire had ravaged much of the city and all three of its printers, allowing him to monopolise on business.


One of Mathison’s unique designs, ca. 1888


Wm. Perkins’ business card, ca. 1889

This collection is made up of promotional materials, business cards and other specialty printed items produced by Mathison between 1886 and 1890. Many of Mathison’s designs feature a variety of fonts and ornate script, and the quirky colloquialisms of the day are particularly easy to spot throughout this collection!


Business card for liquor store in Gastown, The Cabinet, ca. 1887


Business card for Graves Bros. Confectionary, ca. 1888

The R. Mathison Printing Collection also features an official program of events for Vancouver’s Jubilee Celebration of 1887, alongside menus, raffle tickets and invitations.


Program from 1887 Vancouver Jubilee

To view more from this unique collection, click here!

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