RBSC satellite reading room open

Posted on January 22, 2024 @9:30 am by cshriver

Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives is currently operating out of a satellite reading room.

Due to ongoing upgrades, the Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room has temporarily relocated down the hall to Irving K. Barber Learning Centre room 142.


Reading Room hours for term 2 of Winter Session 2023/24 will be Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Scheduled class visits will be accommodated outside of public reading room hours.

To make your visit more efficient and to ensure that materials are available, please contact Rare Book and Special Collections or University Archives with your materials request before visiting the satellite reading room.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the RBSC contact form or by sending an email to or to a specific librarian or archivist.


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Winter weather closure

Posted on January 18, 2024 @4:17 pm by cshriver

[Two women and a man holding walking sticks on snow]

[Two women and a man holding walking sticks on snow]. CC-PH-04319.

Due to winter weather conditions, the Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives reading room will be closed on Friday, January 19. The reading room should reopen on Monday, January 22.

We apologize for any inconvenience and hope you are all staying safe and warm!

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Lowry Manuscripts (Re)Launch

Posted on January 12, 2024 @4:33 pm by cshriver

Many thanks to guest blogger Malcolm Fish for contributing the below post! Malcolm is a graduate student at the UBC School of Information and has just completed a Co-op position with RBSC. He’ll be continuing on with RBSC this term in a Graduate Academic Assistant (GAA) position.

Funding for this project was generously provided by the George Woodcock Canadian Literature and Intellectual Freedom Endowment.

[Lowry] On board the ferry to Gabriola. BC-1614-015

UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections is pleased to announce the (re)launch of the landmark Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection. One of the largest single collections of Malcolm Lowry records worldwide, UBC has been collecting Lowry materials since the initial deposit of the Malcolm Lowry papers by Lowry’s widow, Margerie Bonner Lowry, in 1961. Since that initial deposit, the collection has grown substantially, now spanning more than six meters of textual records, more than 1000 photographs, and a variety of A/V materials, including a copy of the movie adaptation of Lowry’s seminal novel, Under the Volcano. Now that work assessing and redescribing the Collection is complete, researchers and educators can access and search this incredible collection more effectively than ever.

Summary of Work Completed

The Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection is one of UBC’s oldest keystone research collections. Given the scope of the holdings, any work undertaken to update and improve the collection’s inventory records and access descriptions was going to require substantial time and effort to effect. RBSC was able to acquire funding specifically to undertake an overhaul of the Collection in 2023. I was hired as a Co-op student to inventory, assess, and redescribe the Collection.

Work on the Collection was completed in four stages. First, I completed a full physical inventory of all the Malcolm Lowry materials, and compared this inventory with the existing finding aid for the Collection. During the inventory stage, I also noted any preservation issues for future treatment. Fortunately, I did not find any urgent concerns.

[Lowry and Margerie on a street]. BC-1614-664

Once I completed the inventory and confirmed the accuracy of the information in the finding aid, I began stage two, which consisted mostly of data entry. The old PDF finding aid predated current archival descriptive standards and the archival database, AtoM (Access to Memory), used by UBC. Useful information (file titles, date ranges, etc.) was taken from that finding aid and entered into AtoM, forming the file-level descriptions now available for easy searching and perusal.

During stage three, I focused on increasing intellectual control of the Collection’s many sub-collections. The Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection is comprised of the core Malcolm Lowry Papers and many smaller personal collections donated by or purchased from individuals related to Malcolm Lowry. Many of these smaller collections had previously been considered distinct entities related to the Lowry Papers, but not part of them. At times they were listed twice, once in the old PDF finding aid and also as separate groupings, leading to confusion. I examined each of the sub-collections to determine whether they should be subsumed under the Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection umbrella as a sous-founds (a subdivision of a fonds based on the structure of the creator or the organization of its activity) or maintained as separate, but related materials.

Stage four was reserved for the extensive Photographs sous-fonds. Prior to my work, only about 200 of the more than 1000 photographs in the Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection had been described. Many of the Collection photographs originally came in the form of three photo albums. Previous RBSC staff had removed these photographs from the albums for long-term preservation purposes, but as a result, important contextual information about the order of photographs in the albums was missing. Based on numbered annotations made on the pages of the photograph albums, I added notes about which photographs had come from which albums, and updated the descriptions in the Photographs sous-fonds descriptions. The process was exactly as convoluted as it sounds, but it all led to a significantly expanded set of descriptions of one of the most frequently accessed parts of the Collection.

Once stages one through four were completed, the AtoM record for the Collection was restructured and updated to match the changes described above and descriptions from the collection down to the file and item level were uploaded, resulting in the newly (re)launched Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection page.

Changes to the Collection

The Collection is now organized by creator under the Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection umbrella. For example, the Margerie Lowry collection is now SF02 – Margerie Lowry Papers under the Collection umbrella. Similarly, photographs and microfilm have been given their own sous-fonds for ease of searching. These are SF13 – Photographs and SF14 – Microfilm.

For those familiar with the Collection, a few changes to the descriptions have been made, for example “Papers” is now used instead of “fonds” (e.g., SF03 – Earle Birney Papers, SF04 – Harvey Burt Papers). The Lowry Family fonds is also now also a sous-fonds under the Collection umbrella (SF12 – Lowry Family Papers). In order to maintain the accuracy of citations that refer to the previous descriptions, unique identifiers assigned to each part of the collection have been retained for searching purposes. This will allow all older citation information to remain relevant should new users need to track down a specific source, reference, or citation which predates the relaunch.

Ongoing Work

Lowry, Loughrigg How, Lake District. Author’s favorite photograph [p. is cropped with the inscription: Malcolm Lowry, author of Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling place which will be published by J.B. Lippincott Company]. BC-1614-125

Once the Collection had been overhauled, I commenced processing backlogged acquisitions related to Malcolm Lowry. These include the Douglas Day Papers (SF15 – Douglas Day Papers), the Rudy Wurlitzer Papers (SF16 – Rudy Wurlitzer Papers), and several other small additions which we hope to add in 2024.

The Malcolm Lowry Manuscripts Collection is one of UBC’s keystone research collections and one of the largest single collections of Malcolm Lowry materials in the world. Researchers and educators frequently come to UBC specifically to access this collection. Overhauling, inventorying, and restructuring the collection has been a satisfying project, which ensures future users are able to effectively search the Collection and find what they are looking for.

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Season’s greetings from RBSC!

Posted on December 21, 2023 @4:52 pm by cshriver

Drawing found behind a framed photograph in the Lok Tin Lee fonds, c. 1955

Just a reminder that the Rare Books and Special Collections satellite reading room will be closed from Monday, December 25, to Monday, January 1, inclusive. Additionally, the RBSC offices will be closed on the following stat holidays: Monday, December 25; Tuesday, December 26; and Monday, January 1.

RBSC’s offices and our satellite reading room will reopen on Tuesday, January 2.

We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!

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Langmann Collection selections

Posted on October 4, 2023 @2:46 pm by cshriver

Thanks to Krisztina Laszlo, an archivist with Rare Books and Special Collections for coordinating this exhibition and contributing this blog post!

Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) is excited to announce a collaborative exhibition of photographs from the Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs on display across UBC Library branches during the 2023 Fall term. Participating are the Asian Library, Woodward Library, David Lam Library, Koerner Library, Education Library, and the Law Library. The collection, donated by Uno and Dianne Langmann and Uno Langmann Limited, consists of more than 20,000 rare and unique early photographs from the 1850s to the 1970s. It is considered the premiere private collection of early provincial photos, and an important illustrated history of early photographic methods. Like much of the library and archival materials housed at RBSC, the Langmann photographs reflect the history of British Columbia, including its history of colonisation, patriarchy, homophobia, heteronormativity, and racism. These threads are interwoven through the collection, although at the time of creation the photographers meant to celebrate and document the province’s development. A contemporary critical reading of the photographs informed the curation of the overall exhibit. Each library branch selected images to display by reviewing digitised content available on Open Collections, which currently has approximately 7,900 photographs from the Langmann collection digitised and available to the public. Branch curators each selected material according to their individual vision for the exhibit and the themes they wished to address. The selections show not only the breadth of possibilities for critical engagement, and the many ways this material can be used to ask questions about our collective history, but also the incredible scope of the archive itself.

In their own words….

Langmann exhibit photos at the main entrance of the Asian Library

Asian Library

We chose the images here as we felt that these represent pivotal moments for Asian Canadian communities in British Columbia.

Japanese Gate in Torii Style, Hastings St.

This image reflects a community that has been established and is thriving within the city. There are clear signifiers of Japanese culture and tradition, indicating the establishment of Japantown in the area. The image also sparks sadness. Following this era, the area witnessed the forced removal of Japanese Canadian community members resulting from the 1942 internment, and through its location in the heart of the Downtown Eastside, it subsequently transformed into a space of despair for many residents of the area. The Hotel Balmoral, a now-derelict single-room occupancy building that was condemned by the city and is slated for demolition, is depicted here as part of a bright and bustling cityscape, reminding us that since its construction in 1911-1912, the building has been in continuous use to the present day.

Sikh Immigrants, Vancouver, B.C.

This image signifies how not just individuals but communities immigrated to these shores. We see ship, train and carriage transportation and one can really feel the tremendous voyage that the individuals in the picture have already taken to arrive at the port, and the long journey still ahead of them to settle into the city and province. The image was also taken during a time when the Canadian government was actively trying to cut off immigration from those of Sikh faith as well as other Asian migrants, underscoring the resilience of those pictured here.

Langmann exhibit photos on level 4 of Koerner Library

Koerner Library

We were interested in selecting images related to labour and workers, since this is a subject area included in the collections at Koerner Library and one that seems topical and timely. There has been much research and discussion recently about workers and jobs in relation to the pandemic, and at the time we were making our selections, union negotiations and strikes were very much in the news. We hope that our specific selections depict a few compelling examples of the breadth of work and industry that has been part of our provincial history, and the workers themselves who have done the labour.


Langmann exhibit photos on the main floor of Woodward Library

Woodward Library

The Seven Sisters

A sacred place. What do these words mean to you?

At one time these trees were the most popular destination in Stanley Park for settlers and other visitors. A trail, created to allow for more visitors, was named Cathedral Trail to acknowledge the experience of standing among these giants of the forest. There was a sense of sacredness, as if standing in a great cathedral.

Too many visitors led to damaged roots, and in the 1950s the unstable trees were felled. New trees now grow in their place, but it remains to be seen if that sacred quality will ever return.

“Guess who this is?”

Libby’s postcard to Virginia from the skiing village of Adelboden, Switzerland teases us with unanswered questions. We see an intrepid adventurer beginning the long hike up to the ski area.

Who is this person?

Is it Libby, her image transposed onto a postcard with the modern equipment of the 1950s? Or a stranger, intended to represent Libby and her adventures at Adelboden? Could it be an acquaintance, known to both Libby and Virginia?

The person seems to be setting out alone, fresh and ready for the long climb ahead – there were no chairlifts in those days. But who is taking the picture?

Education Library

Langmann exhibit photos on the main floor of the Education Library

Critical Literacy, Learning, and Place:

The Langmann photographs on display at the Education Library were selected to invite a critically literate approach to exploration of the images and how these relate to the history of education in British Columbia. These images, depicting schools and classes in BC between what is estimated to be between 1904 and 1930, invite questions about the intersection of place, time, and learning:

  • Who were the teachers and students in the classrooms during this time period?
  • Who was not included in these places of learning?
  • What kinds of lessons, both explicitly and implicitly, were being taught in these classrooms? How were they being taught?
  • What impact did these physical spaces have on the learning that took place within them? What lessons can we learn today about the way that place impacts learning?

We encourage visitors of the Education Library to consider these questions and more as they explore the photographs.

The Langmann exhibit photos are outside room 205, in the back left corner of the first floor of the David Lam library

David Lam Library

First Trans-Continental Train

I chose this image as the transcontinental railway was part of the first infrastructure to unite the east and west of Canada – a monumental point in Canadian history in 1885.

Horse and Carriage, Kamloops

This was a public bus in the 19th century. I chose this image to show what public transit was like in BC before the advent of the internal combustion engine – this is the Kamloops to Hope stagecoach line using a four horsepower locomotion: the Barnard Stage in 1885.

The Langmann exhibit photos are on level two of the Law Library which is the main entrance floor

Law Library

We selected the two photos of Lynn Canyon because of the serene natural setting. Both photos provide a perfect parallel to the natural beauty of Pacific Spirit Regional Park that surrounds the UBC Vancouver campus. In addition, the north side of the UBC Law Library provides exceptional views of the North Shore where Lynn Canyon is situated.


This endeavour was truly a group-effort! Thank you to everyone who helped make this multi-branch exhibit possible: Elizabeth Stevenson (Woodward Library), Sally Taylor (Woodward Library), Jacky Lai (Rare Books and Special Collections), Weiyan Yan (Rare Books and Special Collections), Jennifer Orme (David Lam Library), Christina Sylka (David Lam Library), Irena Trebic (David Lam Library), Anne Olsen (Koerner Library), Alex Alisauskas (Koerner Library),  Elizabeth Robertson (Co-op Student, Koerner Library), George Tsiakos (Law Library), the team at the Asian Library,  Jennifer Fairchild Simms (Education Library), Emily Fornwald (Education Library).

It’s been a pleasure working with all of you.

Krisztina Laszlo, Rare Books and Special Collections Archivist and Project Coordinator

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Highlighting student work

Posted on September 18, 2023 @10:29 am by cshriver

This summer, RBSC was delighted to host a class from Langara College studying the geography of British Columbia. The course, taught by Professor David Brownstein, included an assignment that tasked students with choosing a digitized archival item, describing what the object means to the regional geography of British Columbia, why is it important, and why they selected it. A few students kindly gave us permission to share their selections on our blog, along with short excerpts from their final assignments. Enjoy!

City of New Westminster, before the Fire

Selected by German David Gonzalez

City of New Westminster, before the Fire. W.R. Creech. RBSC-Frmd-Lscape-006.

The cause of the [New Westminster] fire remains unknown, but the catastrophe was of such magnitude that an aid committee was formed. The fire motivated the creation of a complete fire brigade and brought touristic growth for the city, which then started receiving more and more visitors who wanted to see with their own eyes how a place that was once devastated, became rebuilt.

Lake District of Southern British Columbia

Selected by Yat Man Lam

The Lake District of Southern British Columbia. Canadian Pacific Railway. The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection. CC-TX-201-6-2.

This pamphlet featured in its front cover several well-dressed ladies and children enjoying their time in a picturesque countryside, the lake district of southern British Columbia, where there were mountains, trees, rivers, valleys and fields. It was produced by The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1920 as a promotional initiative to attract visitors to the stretch of land between the Prairies of Western Canada and the Pacific Coast…  The CPR’s success, achieved through collaboration with the government and resulted in its acquisition of 25 million acres of land (Eagle, 1989[1]), came at the hidden cost of displacing the Indigenous communities.

[1] EAGLE, J. A. (1989). The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Development of Western Canada, 1896-1914. McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Indigenous People Catching Salmon

Selected by Jonry Ephraim Isla

Indigenous People catching salmon, Somas River in Vancouver Island. Leonard Frank. Uno Langmann Family Collection of BC Photographs. UL-1550-0002.

Understanding and acknowledging the contributions of Indigenous peoples is essential to grasp the historical and cultural significance of their presence in British Columbia’s fishing industry. With their deep-rooted connection to the ocean and its resources, Indigenous communities have practiced fishing for thousands of years, playing a vital role in shaping the fishing industry in the region. Their traditional knowledge and sustainable fishing practices have been integral to the development of the salmon business in BC. Figure 1 shows a rare photograph taken in 1910 by Leonard Frank, a German-Canadian photographer, which presents two Indigenous men actively fishing for salmon. While Leonard Frank gained fame for his extensive collection of photos, predominantly centered around industrial advancements and city life, he also captured moments of Indigenous life, making their activities part of his photographic legacy.

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Lessons from the Archives Collective

Posted on September 1, 2023 @9:50 am by cshriver

Content warning: The following blog post discusses homophobic attitudes and laws in a historical context.

Many thanks to guest blogger Matthew White for contributing the below post! Matthew is a graduate student at the UBC School of Information and has completed both a Co-op position and a Graduate Academic Assistant (GAA) position with RBSC.

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts that gives students and RBSC team members a chance to show off some of the intriguing materials they encounter serendipitously through their work at RBSC.

As a queer man, it was with a great deal of excitement that I was asked to finalize the processing of the Archives Collective collection at Rare Books and Special Collections. The Archives Collective, a predecessor of both ArQuives (formerly Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, and Canadian Gay Archives) as well as the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives, collected widely over their short tenure, much of it related to the deeply political lives of gay men and women in the 70s and 80s.

This collection was at times gut-wrenching in the displays of homophobia, at times brought me to tears because of the solidarity between marginalized communities. There were some consistent themes throughout the collection that I would like to share, particularly as they relate to queer lives in the world today.

The first thing I want to stress is that the RCMP and the Canadian legal system have never been friends to queer people, not to mention working people, women, First Nations, and immigrants. They will uphold whatever laws are in the books – if these laws discriminate against gays, so be it. The number of times that the RCMP overstepped by entrapping gay men having sex in their own homes, by keeping files on notable queer activists as potential enemies of the state, not to mention NDP leaders, prominent feminists or Indigenous activists, by physically accosting queers in the streets was staggering.

Obviously, queers did not go down without a fight – a fight that we are still fighting to this day. Gay militancy spread rapidly, with groups like the Lavender Panthers prowling streets to protect queer people. Protests were staged rapidly, and long running education or legal campaigns were effective in bringing these issues into the public eye.

It was not difficult, though, to see how these kinds of attitudes were maintained for so long. One pamphlet by the League Against Homosexuals (LAH) said, “Queers exist to seduce and pervert our children. Queers are sexually depraved vampires. If queers are allowed to have “equal rights” then they MUST be allowed to seduce your child.” I am still confused as to why equality necessitates molestation, but this was perhaps only the most glaring example. The Toronto Star and the Vancouver Sun often refused to advertise for gay magazines, leading to a legal battle by the Vancouver Sun in the mid-70s that they won in the Supreme Court of Canada. It was noted that it might offend readership, so it did not have to be included.

An article in an unknown newspaper by McKenzie Porter notes “Many homosexuals are no longer satisfied with acceptance, sympathy and freedom from prosecution. They now seek approval acclaim and authority. The propaganda of homophile associations both female and male, reveals undisguised aspirations to political leadership.” Porter goes on to say that gay men and women are unfit for politics because of “a neurotic or psychotic state of paranoia associated, for reasons unknown, with a childhood history of anal eroticism.”

The Star, after being accused of homophobia, made the following statement: “… we stop short of encouraging the spread of homosexuality. We have no wish to aid the aggressive recruitment propaganda in which certain homosexual groups are engaged, and we strongly oppose those who seek to justify and legitimize homosexual relations between adults and children.” Like current legal oppression against trans people, children were often the basis of homophobic attacks. Other examples include a well-documented campaign by Anita Bryant to halt the gay liberation movement, by using children’s safety and wellbeing as the basis of her homophobia.

It was this kind of push back that brought gay people back onto the street, time and time again. It was a dynamic period, full of fundraising dances, highly publicized legal battles, and periodicals that discussed gay issues – anything from criticism of Marxist attitudes towards homosexuality to letters of support by brothers and mothers to their trans daughters, from rallies against racial discrimination experienced by taxi drivers, to graphics protesting the treatment of Indigenous peoples across North America.

You’ll also note the absence of trans people in my descriptions of the archive – they are, unfortunately, notably absent. Then, as now, often trans people found difficulty finding welcoming environments, and focus on liberation was often focused exclusively on sexuality without engaging critically with transgender or transsexual issues.

For myself, as an aspiring archivist and as a gay man, this was an incredibly enlightening experience. Many queer people have noted the generational absences that exist in our communities due to AIDS and other issues, including suicide and the return to the closet that can occur as queer people age. Being able to access so much of the knowledge and experience of queer people through the archive feels so important. These were people who knew what needed to be done to enact change, and all of that information is still at our fingertips. If we can’t talk to our queer ancestors, then maybe we can learn from what they left behind.

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Chung Translation Project: Chinese Miners in BC

Posted on August 15, 2023 @4:31 pm by claire malek

Dr. Weiyan (Vivian) Yan works as an Office, Copying & Shelving Assistant at the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University of British Columbia. She has recently been  translating descriptions of the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection from English into Chinese. During this work, she highlighted a few interesting materials for the RBSC Blog. Thank you, Vivian!

This image shows how to switch between English and Chinese language descriptions in the archival database

Chinese Miners in 19th Century British Columbia

Item Title: Report of the Minister of Mines

Description: A report of the Minister of Mines on the mining accident of 1883.

Item Number: RBSC-ARC-1679-CC-TX-100-43-5

Chinese description:

English description:

View digital item online:

The report states that in the year of 1883 alone, there were 28 mining accidents. Of these, 12 accidents involved Chinese people, accounting for 42.9% of the total number accidents. One of the miners died, and another 11 were injured.

The report also indicates that in 1883, Nanaimo Collieries employed a total of 398 miners. Among them are 97 Chinese people, accounting for 24.4% of the total number of miners. We can also see that the salary of white people is $2-4 per day, the salary of Chinese people is $1-1.5 per day, and the salary of Indigenous People is $1.25-2.5 per day.

In Wellington Collieries, a total of 559 miners were employed in 1883. Among them are 276 Chinese, accounting for 49.4% of the total number of miners. Here, the wages of white people were $2-3.75 per day, and the salary of Chinese people were $1-1.25 per day.

A close up of the Report of the Minister of Mines.

A close up of the Report of the Minister of Mines showing the wages of white and racialized miners.

The report starkly demonstrates the living conditions of the Chinese people at that time. In an environment of discrimination, they did the most dangerous jobs, and were rewarded with the lowest pay.

This blog post is also available in Chinese here.

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Posted on August 24, 2023 @1:17 pm by claire malek







編號為RBSC-ARC-1679-CC-TX-100-43-5 的收藏品,名為Report of the Minister of Mines,是一份礦業部長關於1883年採礦業事故的報告。




這份報告還指出,在1883年,Nanaimo Collieries共僱傭礦工398人。其中有97名中國人,佔礦工總人數的24.4%。白人的薪資為每天$2-4,中國人的薪資為每天$1-1.5,而原住民的薪資為每天$1.25-2.50。


在Wellington Collieries,1883年共僱傭礦工559人。其中有276名中國人,佔礦工總人數的49.4%。白人的薪資為每天$2-3.75,中國人的薪資為每天$1-1.25。





A close up of the Report of the Minister of Mines.


这篇博文也有英文版:Chung Translation Project Series: Chinese Miners in 19th Century British Columbia | Rare Books and Special Collections (

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A croquet scandal!

Posted on August 11, 2023 @2:19 pm by cshriver

Many thanks to guest blogger Atreya Madrone for contributing the below post! Atreya is a graduate student at the UBC School of Information and is completing a professional experience with RBSC this summer working with vertical files, which are individual or small groups of archival materials.

This is part of an ongoing series of blog posts that gives students and RBSC team members a chance to show off some of the intriguing materials they encounter serendipitously through their work at RBSC.

This summer I am undergoing a Professional Experience working with the vertical files at Rare Books and Special Collections.

Within the vertical files, I found an open letter to the All England Croquet Club written by their Honorary Secretary Walter Whitmore in the 1860s or ‘70s. Whitmore is responding to charges other members of the Club brought against him, including falsifying meeting minutes to make himself look better. This letter is so funny! Who knew croquet could be so scandalous. Check out the Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection for other croquet materials here at RBSC.

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