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Featured photograph: Bernice the clown

This month, in honour of Halloween, our featured photograph is of a young girl in a clown costume. This photograph is part of a photo album by a young Chinese-American in the 1910’s named Frank Jue.

All that we know about the young girl in this photograph is that it is captioned “Bernice.” It may not have been a Halloween costume- this photo album contains a number of theatrical and humourous photographs that appear to have been taken just for fun.  Frank Jue (also known as Jue Fong) was a teenager during this time period, and we know little about him also, except that he went on to sing as a tenor. While the collection contains many portraits of Chinese-Canadians and -Americans, candid photographs are more difficult to come by, which makes this album a very valuable resource.

This Saturday: Story Gallery Festival

This Saturday, head to the Britannia Community Centre for the Story Gallery Festival which will feature a number of community story-telling projects, presented through new books, oral histories, and art. including:

”Our Roots: Aboriginal and Immigrant Stories in Grandview-Woodlands”

Vancouver Stories 125

Under One Umbrella

The Britannia Community Centre says there will be presentations, music, demos and food!  A full schedule of events is available here.

A visit to the Wing Sang building

When we have visitors to the Chung Collection exhibition, we always tell the story of Yip Sang, and his large family and business that occupied 51 East Pender Street in Vancouver. This historic building fell into disrepair in the 1980’s-90’s, but has since had new life breathed into it as the space for the Rennie Collection. A couple of weekends ago a group of us local archivists took advantage of their free tours to explore both the current art exhibition as well as this historic building.

The Rennie Collection is one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Canada, and two exhibitions are held in the Wing Sang building each year. Two weeks ago was the last week for the Martin Creed exhibition, during which visitors were encouraged to walk through a room filled exactly half-way with pink latex balloons! It was an interesting experience to say the least. While the outside of the building has retained its historic façade, the interior has been extensively renovated. Here and there throughout the gallery, you can see exposed brick and other evidence of the former interior. From the roof top, where you can view the gallery’s three permanent exhibitions, you can see the elevated alley which connected the family business to the family home. This ran above Market Alley, a hub of economic activity (and opium trafficking, until it was outlawed in 1909) in Chinatown’s early days.

The Wing Sang building is a designated heritage site, so the renovations had to be done within the Vancouver Heritage Register guidelines. Beyond those requirements though, the Rennie Collection has made efforts to pay tribute to the historic natur e  of the building, by using reclaimed wood and other features whenever possible. A collection of photographs from the renovation can be viewed in the lobby, framed with wood reclaimed during renovations. For passersby on the street there are photographs and interpretive stories on the exterior windows.

We had made special arrangements with the staff to see the staff areas in the building- knowing that an archivist from the Chung Collection and two from the City of Vancouver Archives, who also hold records of the Yip family and Wing Sang Company, the staff ensured that we were able to see the former school room, which is now used as a board room. The Rennie Collection worked with the Yip family to keep this room in tact as much as possible- the chalkboards are protected so that a message from the last Yip residents to future generations is preserved.  The director explained that although the room had to be repainted because of lead paint, they used colours that were accurate to the last paint-job that the room had received from the Yip family. 

Whether you visit for the art collections, the history of the building or the gorgeous view from the roof, a visit to the Rennie Collection is worth the trip. Their next exhibition, of Damian Moppett, begins on November 26.

Reminder- Archival research skills for grad students workshop

There is still room to register for the Rare Books and Special Collections workshop for graduate students on archival research skills on Friday Oct. 21 at noon-2 pm.  Designed for beginners, this workshop will cover the basics of archival research and organization, and finish with some hands-on examples from the collections at UBC Library. This […]

Updated archives: John Keenlyside Legal Research Collection

We are pleased to announce that additional material is now available in the John Keenlyside Legal Research Collection. This collection is consists of primary documents related to the legal history in British Columbia, and is particularly strong in colonial documents. The most recent addition to this collection contains three different series of documents: Bankruptcy cases: […]

Featured place: Stewart

Our featured place this week is Stewart B.C., which is a border town near the end of the Portland canal and the border of Alaska. Forestry and mining are the two main industries of the area, mining being what prompted white settlers to the area in 1898.  The Nisga’a First Nation called the Stewart area […]

Thanksgiving closure

A reminder that all UBC Libraries, including Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives and the Chung Collection will be closed for Thanksgiving Monday (Oct.10). The image below is the cover of a “Thanksgiving address” given by Robert Thomson in 1879 in Drummondville, ON. You may notice that in the late 19th century, Canadian Thanksgiving […]

Archival research skills for grad students- workshop

Rare Books and Special Collections is hosting a workshop for graduate students on archival research skills on Friday Oct. 21 at noon-2 pm.  Designed for beginners, this workshop will cover the basics of archival research and organization, and finish with some hands-on examples from the collections at UBC Library. This workshop will be held in […]

Chung Collection room re-opened

The Chung Collection room and King James Bible exhibition have re-opened. Our apologies for the inconvenience this closure may have caused.