Show and Tell: Selections from our Personal Archives and Libraries
How we remember, and what we hold dear, differs from person to person. All of us have personal archives we keep to preserve memories that are precious, that document our families, our histories and record important events. It could be a simple piece of ephemera we love and cannot part with (a ticket stub from our first concert, for example), or photographs of ancestors that offer clues to our origins, or anything we have set aside and saved for a myriad reasons. Similarly, our personal libraries hold volumes that have emotional value to us, not just for the words contained in it, but as a reflection of a time in our lives, we found them particularly relevant. This could be the first book of poetry that made us fall in love with verse, or the dog-eared copy of a classic novel that led us to our current passion for libraries and library work. This blog series explores selections from the personal libraries and archives of members of the Rare Books and Special Collections team, and perhaps other colleagues from UBC Library and beyond. We hope our stories will help you reflect on what is meaningful at this time in your, and in our, collective histories.
— Krisztina Laszlo, Archivist
Jacky Lai, Archives and Circulation Assistant
During my final year in high school I created a graduation scrapbook for my Japanese language class. The scrapbook documented the 5 W’s of my life back then – where, who, when, what, why. Some of the highlights include my favourite places (kitchen and karaoke), my favourite pop group, a letter to my parents, my goals, a selection of Japanese syntax homework, yearbook messages from my classmates written in Japanese, and adorable childhood photographs (if I do say so myself). It is always fun and nostalgic flipping through this scrapbook (and a good opportunity to brush up on my Japanese).
Chelsea Shriver, Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian
I would like to start by stressing that I am, by and large, a law abiding citizen. I do not typically indulge in either vandalism or property destruction. But I do happen to have about a foot and a half of wallpaper that was…liberated? preemptively salvaged? preserved for posterity at knife point?…from the dorm of my undergraduate institution. I attended a small liberal arts college in New England (I’ll withhold names until the statute of limitations has passed) where the dorm or “house” system was very important. You ate all meals in your house, you attended Convocation and other all-campus meetings (at which you performed your house cheer) with your house, and you went through Commencement with your house. It was quite common to live in the same house all four years, as I did.
My last year of undergrad, I lived in (you guessed it!) room 325 of this particular house. I can’t quite recall how it started, but I believe there was an argument between two very petite friends of mine over which was taller, and the shorter of the two was having trouble admitting defeat. Since seeing is believing, measurements were made against the wall outside of my room and marked in pencil. Over the months of that final year, other friends and family were measured. By Commencement day, we had amassed a little collection.
A year after I graduated, I came back to campus to attend the graduation of a good friend (RG, one of the two original height disputants). We went to visit the old dorm, and learned that it was soon to undergo a complete renovation / redecoration. I’m *pretty* sure there was already some preparatory work visible on the walls, which gave us inspiration and courage for what we were about to do, but that may just be a guilty conscience trying to soothe itself. We went up to visit my old hallway, and there were the height markings, just as we had left them. They were going to be replacing the wallpaper anyway, we reasoned. It was clear from the work they had already started. Someone (not me!) produced a pocket knife. It was all done surprisingly quickly and easily. We rolled up the strip of wallpaper we had liberated / salvaged / preserved, and at the last minute, someone (okay, it was me this time) gave the plastic number plaque outside of my old room a good, sharp yank (I mean, in for a penny…). All that to say, memory and nostalgia are very, very powerful forces. They can even turn a venerable college ceremony into a heist and the mildest of future librarians into a scofflaw.