Featured place: Fraser River

Posted on February 9, 2011 @9:49 am by sromkey

In this week’s installment of Rare Books and Special Collection‘s blog series on B.C. place names from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, we’ll take a close look at the Fraser River.

The Fraser River is, not surprisingly, named after the explorer Simon Fraser who fully explored the river in 1808. The longest river in British Columbia (over 2,200 km), it originates in the Rocky Mountains and flows into the Straight of Georgia.

The Frazer River Thermometer

The Frazer River Thermometer

Gold was struck in Fraser River around 1858 which is the origin of our featured document. This broadside entitled The Frazer River Thermometer was published in San Fransisco in 1858 and has humorous  illustrations of miners leaving their lives and families in California to seek gold in British Columbia, describing the area as the “new El Dorado of the North.”  Note the older spelling of “Fraser” with a “z” instead of an “s.” Very few copies of this document are known to exist, but we have one copy on display in the Chung Collection exhibition room, and another which is available upon request in our reading room for closer consultation. Early B.C. history is one of the main focuses of the Chung Collection, along with immigration and settlement, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The exhibition displays highlights from the collection, but the collection is much larger, numbering approximately 25,000 items.

In the Barber Centre, the Fraser River room is part of the facilities of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Technology, on the 2nd floor.

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Featured room: Ridington Room

Posted on January 26, 2011 @1:54 pm by kalsbeek

This week, we thought that we would post on the Ridington Room, a room in the Barber Centre that is not named after a place in British Columbia.

Photo courtesy of UBC Library Graphics, and created under a Creative Commons License

Rather, the Ridington Room (room 321)  is named after an important person in the history of the University of British Columbia Library: John Ridington.

Photo courtesy of the UBC Archives. UBC Archives photo #1.1/1510

John Ridington was UBC’s  first University Librarian. A former journalist and teacher, he started work on the library collection in August 1914 when UBC was in its temporary home at West 10th Avenue and Laurel Street (the Fairview Shacks).  By 1916, he had been appointed University Librarian, a position he remained in until his retirement at the age of 72 in April 1940. According to information gathered by the UBC Archives, Ridington was known as a rigid authoritarian and was nicknamed ‘King John’.

In the former Main Library, there was also a room named after Ridington. Photo courtesy of UBC Archives. UBC Archives photo #76.1/22

The University Archives is responsible for collecting material related to the University and, therefore, holds the papers of John Ridington and his family. If you are interested in learning more about the life of UBC’s first University librarian, take a look at the finding aid (“an aid for finding items in an archival collection”) to the collection that is available on the University Archives website.

The Ridington Room is definitely worth a visit if you haven’t already had the oppportunity to see the space. It is often called the “Harry Potter Room” by students, due to the winding staircase and the portrait-covered walls. A portrait of John Ridington, painted in 1912 by his brother-in-law Malcolm Charleston, hangs in the Ridington Room.

Photo courtesy of UBC Library Graphics, and created under a Creative Commons License

There is also a magnificent art installation by Vancouver artist John Nutter, who was commissioned by Jean Barber to to design a 45-panel glass sculpture that is intended to “flow like the Northern Lights,” and features intricate etchings designed around a series of compasses. Nutter felt the Library, like a compass, should be used “as a tool of discovery.”   It is an ideal space for quiet study, but be sure to arrive early because the comfortable chairs fill up quickly!

Photo courtesy of UBC Library Graphics, and created under a Creative Commons License

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Featured place: Lillooet

Posted on January 12, 2011 @9:00 am by sromkey

Happy new year, and welcome back to Rare Books and Special Collections’ series of blog posts featuring places in British Columbia based on the room names in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

Our featured place for this post is Lillooet, which was founded as “Mile 0” on the Cariboo/Barkerville gold rush wagon trail.  Located 340 km northeast of Vancouver, Lillooet is included in the traditional land of the St’at’imc first nation. After the Gold Rush period, the main industries in Lillooet were centered around the railway, ranching, farming and forestry.

Our featured documents are three photographic postcards from the B.C. Historical Photograph collection at RBSC. This collection can be searched through the Archives, Bibliographies and Reading Rooms section of the library catalogue, or on the RBSC site.

Kelly's Lake, P.G.E. above Lillooet, Cariboo Trail

Kelly's Lake, P.G.E. above Lillooet, Cariboo Trail ID # BC-366

All three photographs were taken by the photographer Arthur Phair, and depict scenery around Lillooet, views from the Pacific Great Eastern Railway… and Lillooet’s first truck!

Looking east, Lillooet, B.C., winter, 1916-17

Looking east, Lillooet, B.C., winter, 1916-17, ID # BC-522

Lillooet's first truck

Lillooet's first truck, ID # BC-1802

According to Camera Workers of British Columbia, Arthur Phair was a commercial photographer active in Lillooet from around 1920-1933. Camera Workers of British Columbia is a great (and free!) resource for identifying photographers in B.C. from 1858-1950.

In the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the Lillooet room (#301) is part of the Chapman Learning Commons. This beautiful room is a favorite for conferences and meetings.

Lillooet room

Photo courtesy of US Mission Canada and used under Creative Commons license

Interesting Lillooet fact: Lillooet’s Bridge of 23 Camels, opened in 1981 and named by contest, is named after 23 camels brought to B.C. during the gold rush period to use as pack animals. Sadly, the camels’ soft feet were not suited to the rough wagon trails, and they were reportedly stinky and difficult to manage. Most were subsequently abandoned to roam the B.C. wilds before succumbing to cold winters or hunters.

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New documentary art collection

Posted on January 7, 2011 @2:29 pm by sromkey

A small collection of drawings and paintings from turn of the century Vancouver has been recently catalogued at Rare Books and Special Collections. The Albert Lindgren fonds contains 37 small watercolour paintings and 9 drawings, dating from ca. 1900-1903.  The paintings and drawings mostly depict Vancouver-area waterfront views, as Lindgren was a ship captain.

Archives will often collect works of art which document a specific place, culture or time period.  In the era before photography became so commonplace, a sketch or painting may be one of few records of what a place or landmark looked like. For example, the image below is an early depiction of the original Prospect Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park, before the seawall was built.

View of Prospect Point lighthouse

View of Prospect Point lighthouse, ca. 1900

On the other hand, sometimes a lack of contextual information or notes by the creator leave you wondering what it is exactly you’re looking at. For example, the image below: given the content of the rest of the collection, this is very likely a waterfront scene in the Vancouver area. Possibly it’s Coal Harbour- if you think you know, leave a comment or email us at and let us know!

View of waterfront buildings, possibly Coal Harbour

View of waterfront buildings, possibly Coal Harbour, ca. 1900

For a large Canadian documentary art collection, much of which can be viewed online, check out Documentary Art at Library and Archives Canada.

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Christmas for Archivists

Posted on December 23, 2010 @10:50 am by sromkey

The end of the year for an archivist can feel like… well, like Christmas! At the end of the year a lot of people get around to adding to their archives. As a little preview, next year you can expect to see additions to:

Happy holidays and stay tuned in the New Year for new and growing collections!

Incoming archives at Rare Books and Special Collections

Incoming archives at Rare Books and Special Collections

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Featured place: Fort Fraser

Posted on December 21, 2010 @9:19 am by kalsbeek

This week our featured place is Fort Fraser, British Columbia.  Today, Fort Fraser,  named by the explorer, Simon Fraser in 1806,  is a community of about 1000 people that is active in the tourism and forestry industries.

Mill at Fort Fraser

Mill at Fort Fraser, BC-1456-2-11. This photograph of a lumber mill in Fort Fraser comes from the B.C. Historical Photograph Album Collection . RBSC collects photographs both individually and as parts of larger collections. On our website you will find tutorials on how to search for photographs in our collections.

Historically, Fort Fraser played an important role in the development of British Columbia for a number of reasons, including:

  • It is found near the geographical centre of British Columbia, 44 km west of Vanderhoof on The Yellowhead Highway.
  • Originally established in 1806 as a North West Company fur trading post by the explorer Simon Fraser, it is one of present-day British Columbia’s oldest permanent European-founded settlements. The area around the community is also recorded as the site of the first land in British Columbia cultivated by non-First Nations people.
  • The present community is located at the site of the last spike of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, driven on April 7, 1914.

The Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) reading room is named after the community of  Fort Fraser. We think that it is a very fitting name for our reading room. Similar to the way in which Fort Fraser is located near the geographical centre of British Columbia, physically, the RBSC reading room is located at the heart of the Barber Learning Centre.

Fort Fraser Reading Room

If you have some extra time before we close for the holidays at 3pm on December 24, please drop in to visit the RBSC Fort Fraser Reading Room and a take a look at ‘Tis the Season, a winter holiday-themed exhibition.

Holiday exhibition in the Fort Fraser Reading Room
Holiday exhibition in the Fort Fraser Reading Room
Holiday exhibition in the Fort Fraser Reading Room
Holiday exhibition in the Fort Fraser Reading Room
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Featured place: Nimpkish

Posted on November 30, 2010 @11:00 am by kalsbeek

Every two weeks, Rare Books and Special Collections is featuring a historic document based on a B.C. place name used in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.  Our third featured B.C. place is the Nimpkish area.  The community of Nimpkish is on the end of Nimpkish Lake, on the northern part of Vancouver Island.  An area known for forestry (as part of the North island Central Coast Forest District), it is also the home of the Nimpkish Lake Provincial Park, and the traditional territory of the ‘Namgis First Nation.

The document shown comes from the Yorkshire Trust Company fonds, and the files from this collection show the establishment of the Nimpkish Lake Logging Company in the early 20th century.  The files contain minutes and correspondence regarding shares and timber leases.

Nimpkish Lake Logging Company document

From the Yorkshire Trust Company fonds, file 2-28

The Yorkshire Trust Company was based in England, but established an office in Vancouver in 1880. Being one of the first financial companies to operate in British Columbia, its records include valuable historical information on a variety of early British Columbia businesses.  These records are available for consultation in the Rare Books and Special Collections division of the library.

In the Barber Centre, the Nimpkish Study Area is room 387, and is part of the Science One and Arts One area on the third floor.

Entry to Science One and Arts One

Entry to Science One and Arts One

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Featured place: Moresby Island

Posted on November 16, 2010 @10:09 am by kalsbeek

Our second featured place is Moresby Island. During the course of doing research for this blog post, we discovered that there are actually two Moresby Islands in British Columbia; one island is located in the Queen Charlotte archipelago and one island is located in the Gulf Islands. Our collection of early British Columbia Admiralty charts includes charts of both islands.

Moresby Island, shown on Admiralty chart 3619, is the name of one of the BC Gulf Islands and is located on the west side of Swanson Channel and east of the southern end of Saltspring Island. A small island (it is 3.7 km long and 2.2 km across), it was first settled in 1863 and was named after Rear Admiral Fairfax Moresby R.N., who was the naval commander-in-chief of the Pacific Station of the Royal Navy between 1850 and 1853.

Moresby Island (Gulf Island)

Moresby Island, shown on Admiralty chart 1923b, is also the name of one of the 150 islands that make up the Queen Charlotte archipelago, and is much larger. It is actually the 175th largest island in the world, and the 32nd largest island in Canada. Interestingly, this island was also named for Rear Admiral Fairfax Moresby, by Moresby’s son-in-law, Commander James Prevost.

Moresby Island (Queen Charlotte archipelago)

In the Barber Centre, the Moresby Room is room 185 and is located on the first floor of the Barber Centre.

Room 185, Barber Centre

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Featured town: Bella Coola

Posted on November 2, 2010 @10:09 am by kalsbeek

In a new series of blog posts, Rare Books and Special Collections will be featuring a historic document, photograph or map related to one of the B.C. towns represented in the room names of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

Receipt from A.C. Christensen & Son, Bella Coola

Receipt from A.C. Christensen & Son, Bella Coola

To kick things off, we’ll start with Bella Coola which is a small town on the Central Coast of B.C.  The Bella Coola area is famous for the MacKenzie Rock, where in 1793 Alexander MacKenzie wrote his name on a rock to commemorate completing the first recorded journey across North America.  In the early to mid 20th century, the Bella Coola area was home to the Tallheo Cannery, which is where our featured document comes from.  The Tallheo Cannery was built in 1912 by the Canadian Fishing Company.  The archives of the Tallheo Cannery include administrative records such as correspondence, financial documents, and fishermen’s statements.  The document shown is a receipt for purchases made by the Cannery from a Bella Coola store, A.C. Christensen & Son, who were dealers in “dry goods, boots and shoes, hardware and groceries.”

In the Barber Centre, the Bella Coola room is number 193, a meeting room on the first floor of the building.

Check back every two weeks for another B.C. town and another historic document!

Bella Coola room, Barber Centre

Bella Coola room, Barber Centre

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Updated archives: Garnett Weston fonds

Posted on September 30, 2010 @4:11 pm by kalsbeek

This week we’ve added a small group of material to the archives of Weston Garnett, a screenwriter, novelist and poet, born in Toronto in 1890 who eventually settled in East Sooke, Vancouver Island.  A little research on Weston proves interesting: he was the screenwriter for the 1932 film “White Zombie” which among Zombie aficionados is considered to be the first-ever Zombie movie.  Unfortunately, the manuscript for “White Zombie” is not part of his archives here at UBC.  We do however have manuscripts of several novels, poetry, and one screenplay co-written with Zelda Sears.

Garnett Weston at Graymar, East Sooke

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