Chung Collection exhibition closure

Posted on December 1, 2021 @9:09 am by cshriver

The Chung Collection exhibition room will be closed until further notice for maintenance. During the closure, we hope you enjoy these videos about the main themes of the Chung Collection, as well as this virtual tour.

Our apologies for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience!

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Chung Collection room open

Posted on November 2, 2021 @1:41 pm by cshriver

The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection, one of our most well-known and beloved special collections, contains material related to three broad and interrelated themes: early British Columbia history, immigration and settlement, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The collection contains a wide variety of documents, photographs, books, artifacts and maps related to each of these themes.

Selections from the collection are on display in RBSC, organized to show some of the most compelling stories of Canada’s past.

Early B.C. history:

Related to early B.C. history are rare editions of the narratives of many Pacific voyages of discovery including Valdes, Galiano, Malaspina, Cook, and Vancouver. The exhibition also features charts recording the exploration of the Pacific Northwest.

Immigration and settlement:

The Fraser River gold rush that sparked Chinese immigration to British Columbia is highlighted through books and government documents relating to the restriction of such immigration. Chinese-Canadian cultural, social, and economic life is displayed through archival documents, photographs, and artifacts.

European immigration to Canada is illustrated with promotional brochures and posters encouraging settlers to the West, and archival material from the Clandonald colony in Alberta, a community of immigrants from the Scottish Hebrides.

Canadian Pacific Railway:

Documents, maps, and publications show how the Canadian Pacific Railway was built, and how Vancouver was chosen as the western terminus. Photographs and accounts of the building of the railway are presented, along with vibrant posters promoting travel and tourism via C.P.R. rail and steamships. Beautiful examples of cruise ship memorabilia provide a glimpse of the style of the times.

The exhibition is open to the public, free of charge during Rare Books and Special Collections opening hours (Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.) for self-guided tours. For those who aren’t able to visit in person, we have a virtual tour of the Chung Collection exhibition room available, as well as a number of informational videos about the collection. We hope you enjoy them!


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Chung Collection exhibition closure

Posted on October 8, 2021 @11:27 am by cshriver

The Chung Collection exhibition room will be temporarily closed for two weeks from Monday, October 18 through Friday, October 29 for conservation work. Our apologies for the inconvenience. The Chung Collection exhibition room will be open as usual on Monday, November 1. Thank you for your patience!

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Science Literacy Week 2021

Posted on September 17, 2021 @4:27 pm by cshriver

In honour of Science Literacy Week 2021’s theme of climate, our wonderful Forestry and Natural Resources Archivist, Claire Williams, has highlighted some of Rare Books and Special Collections’ many fonds related to British Columbia’s environment in the UBC Library Guide to Science Literacy Week.

These fonds include records documenting historical climate data, struggles for climate action, and the development of creative works to educate others on the importance of climate issues. You can read a general description of the fonds below, or can click through to the full inventories for more details.

Angus Elias fonds

E. A. Royce fonds

Greenpeace International, Stitching Greenpeace Council fonds

Jim Hann documentary video collection

Joan Sawicki fonds


If you would like to consult any of these materials in person, you can visit Rare Books and Special Collections. To learn about other archival holdings related to natural resource extraction and the climate, check out RBSC’s Forest History and Archives Research Guide.

Science Literary Week runs from September 20 to 26, 2021. For more details about Science Literacy Week activities at the Library, including other resources and several events you can attend, explore the UBC Library Guide to Science Literacy Week.

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Reading Room Now Open

Posted on September 10, 2021 @12:57 pm by cshriver

Please note that some materials may be unavailable due to mechanical issues with the Library’s automated storage system (ASRS). Please contact us in advance of your visit to confirm that materials are accessible.

Most UBC Library branches on the UBC Vancouver campus, including the RBSC reading room, will reopen September 7, 2021. Reading Room hours for the fall 2021 term will be Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Scheduled class visits will be accommodated outside of public reading room hours. 

When visiting, please be aware of UBC’s COVID-19 Campus Rules, including the mandatory wearing of non-medical masks in all indoor public areas.

For those who are unable to come to campus for a visit to the reading room, we will be continuing the RBSC Remote Reading Room service through September 2021, at which time we will reassess continuing the service.

The RBSC Remote Reading Room allows you to consult rare book and archival materials remotely via a document camera. Scheduled sessions take place via Zoom, and an RBSC team member will be on hand to page through materials for you.

Remote Reading Room sessions can be booked for one hour, and patrons may request one rare book or one box of archival materials per session. Patrons can book up to three appointments per month and may request up to 10 image captures (JPG format) during each session. Requests must be submitted 7 business days in advance and sessions are available on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. (PT).

In order to schedule a session and for more details, please see the RBSC Remote Reading Room Request Form.

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.

We look forward to welcoming you back to the reading room!



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International Kelmscott Press Day

Posted on June 25, 2021 @2:51 pm by cshriver

As we celebrate International Kelmscott Press Day, we hope you enjoy this special lecture by Dr. Gregory Mackie, Associate Professor in the Department of English, and UBC Library’s Norman Colbeck Curator, titled “A Nameless City in a Distant Sea”: William Morris, Arts and Crafts, and the Kelmscott Chaucer in British Columbia.  





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Celebrating UBC’s Kelmscott Chaucer on International Kelmscott Press Day

Posted on June 25, 2021 @1:24 pm by cshriver

In honour of International Kelmscott Press Day on June 26, 2021, we’re celebrating and reflecting on the acquisition of the UBC Library’s own Kelmscott Chaucer.

The poet William Butler Yeats described it as the “most beautiful of all printed books.” Artist and illustrator Edward Burne-Jones likened it to a “pocket cathedral.” At UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, we know it as the single most requested book in our collection.

William Morris’s printed masterpiece, the complete works of Geoffrey Chaucer published by Morris’s Kelmscott Press, known as the Kelmscott Chaucer, is a book of renown on par with the likes of Shakespeare’s folios. It is part of the “triple crown” of fine press printing referred to by book historians and collectors, made up of three remarkable works held to represent the pinnacle of the book arts of the modern fine press movement. Issued in a limited edition of only 438 copies in 1896, the Kelmscott Chaucer is tracked and studied to such a degree that there is a scholarly census of each copy’s history and current custodian, which is kept up-to-date on the author’s website.

A joint acquisition by UBC Library and the faculty of arts, the Kelmscott Chaucer was purchased in the summer of 2016 after two years of fundraising efforts, which included a substantial donation from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation of New York. UBC faculty, community members and UBC’s Centennial Initiatives Fund also contributed. The drive to acquire the book was based not only on its significance to book history and fine press printing generally, but to honour and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the donation to UBC Library of the world-renowned Colbeck Collection of 19th-century literature, which includes several extremely rare Kelmscott Press books. RBSC’s copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer, known as the “Slater-Gribbel-Schimmel” copy, boasts not only the Morris-designed white pigskin binding, executed by the Doves Bindery (one of only 48 copies in the world with this particular binding), but also a rare printer’s proof with variant typesetting for the opening page.

While we at RBSC were beyond thrilled with the acquisition after many years of effort, we had no idea that the public response to the Kelmscott Chaucer would be so enthusiastic! We were amazed that the Vancouver Sun chose to feature the acquisition on the front page, and promptly ran across campus trying to buy commemorative copies of the paper in our excitement. And as soon as the word got out, visitors started arriving to experience the book in person. People from all over British Columbia and beyond made the trek out to UBC’s somewhat isolated campus, individually and occasionally in groups organized especially for the occasion, to feel the Batchelor handmade paper, hear the satisfying “swish” of the pages as they turn, to marvel at the intricacy and detail of Burne-Jones’s illustrations and Morris’s decorations, to admire the stunning binding, and to enjoy the feeling of connection to history. In the first three years after our Kelmscott Chaucer came to RBSC, it was circulated to visitors in our reading room and classes an average of twice a week and outstripped our Second Folio of Shakespeare and our 15th century book of hours in popularity.

But since one can’t expect every fan of William Morris or arts and crafts printing to make the trip to UBC, our colleagues at UBC’s Digitization Centre scanned the entire work in 2018, making it freely and publically accessible through the Library’s Open Collections, where it has been viewed nearly 3000 times. The Library Communications team was even inspired to create a downloadable colouring book featuring pages from the Kelmscott Chaucer, helping to share the beauty of the book more widely.


We feel so lucky to be able to not only act as stewards and custodians for this exemplar of book design and printing history, but to ensure that it is accessible to the UBC community, the people of British Columbia, and lovers of beauty the world over, to be experienced, celebrated, and enjoyed. Happy International Kelmscott Press Day!

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Archival work in a global pandemic

Posted on May 31, 2021 @1:29 pm by cshriver

Many thanks to guest blogger Sadaf Ahmadbeigi for contributing the below post! Sadaf has just completed course work as a graduate student at UBC’s School of Information and has been working as an intern with Rare Books and Special Collections.

Managing Archival Projects During a Global Pandemic

A conversation with Krisztina Laszlo

As I am writing this blog it has been more than a year since the Rare Books and Special Collection’s reading room has been closed to visitors and most of the staff due to Covid-19 pandemic. For this blog I reached out to Krisztina Laszlo, senior archivist at RBSC, to see how this year and a half has affected the way she’s been carrying out her work. Below are highlights of the conversation we had over Zoom.

Sadaf Ahmadbeigi: How did your job change after you were told that all work has to be moved into remote work?

Krisztina Laszlo: When we moved into remote work last March, we had three students and two interns, including you. So, one of the key priorities at that time was finding meaningful work for our students and student interns. We had to figure out what projects they could do from a remote environment because students in house mainly do arrangement and description work, and working on reference questions, neither of which was possible at that time due to COVID.

SA: How long did it take for you to plan the new projects for the students?

KL: Not very long. We first had to deal with our immediate students. There were some projects that I’ve always wanted to have done but there’s always so much pressure to get arrangement and description done that it seemed like we never had time for them. These were tasks like converting our old PDF finding aids into AtoM, writing blog posts as a way to create content and working on LibGuides. We were looking for the types of meaningful work for students that would meet the needs of the institution and help create better experiences for patrons. For example, creating outreach components in the form of blog posts would allow meaningful experience for students and is also useful for the researcher and patron side of things. So, we asked the students and interns to switch to doing these tasks.

The other thing that changed as the result of COVID was the nature of our work with donors. There was a lot of donor interaction in terms of what had already been donated because we had to delay getting their tax receipts.  I needed to communicate the process of issuing tax receipts to the doners so they could understand the reason for this delay. Before issuing tax receipts, we need to process the material, which is usually done by students who no longer had access to them. Then we have to get a monetary appraisal done which requires bringing the person into the facility to do the appraisal. And then we can issue the tax receipt. And now due to COVID, we had to stop that whole process. So, it was very important to communicate all this with the doners.

SA: Other than the tax receipts, the rest of your work with the doners has stayed the same as before, right?

KL: Yes. [For new donations], under normal circumstances, I would go to a donor’s house to do a site visit if they were in the city. And sometimes I travel, if we think the records are going to be valuable. I have traveled around BC to look at records before. Sometimes I’ll advise on site whether we can accept the material, or a part of it or none of it at all. When it comes to UBC whoever’s doing the processing will go through it more carefully. Now that it’s no longer possible to do a site visit, there is a lot of communication over email, phone or zoom to determine what we can accept. With COVID we can only be on site at UBC for limited hours. This means that the transfer of the materials to RBSC has become exponentially more difficult to coordinate. Couriers who are usually in charge of dropping off the materials are notoriously hard to coordinate with. They often give you a window, between 7am and 8pm, and we can’t schedule an exact time with them. There are other logistical issues as well. So, there’s all sorts of things that were really easy to do under normal circumstances but are now challenging.

I also found that with COVID more people are spending time at home, so they have time to go through their own personal archives. So, there’s a huge flood of doners that have been contacting us saying that they’ve had time to go through their stuff and ask if we are interested in what they have. I’ve got a huge file, about six inches thick, of just my paper notes of potential donation. This is not even counting all of the emails we received from donors. Now that it’s been over a year since the pandemic, managing all of the communication with doners about the materials that we want to take in is challenging.  I keep getting emails from people asking if we are open and if they can bring in their stuff. And I have to say, no, no, not yet. So, the first year to a year and a half once we’re back to normal, it’s just going to be dealing with this backlog, just the backlog that accumulated in the last year and a half, not even touching the backlog that already existed before the pandemic.

SA: Oh wow! What are some new possible records that we might get after the restrictions?

KL: One of the interesting contacts I’ve made during this time is with a retired woman who wrote a book about the history of women at the Vancouver Police Department. I contacted her and we had a great conversation around her process of writing that book and doing research. And I asked her if she has contacts for other women. This is interesting and relevant to RBSC because one of my focuses here is to bring in more records about women’s experiences, and how women have expanded into non-traditional roles is one of the areas of our focus here. Because there wasn’t a lot of careers open to women back then. So, for women to start being police officers in the 60s and 70s points to a really interesting period of feminist history in BC as women started to branch out into this area of work that has been traditionally only for men. I am really excited about these potential records and she’s got connections to other women who might have more archival material.

It’s always important to have enough knowledge about potential donations so that the doners won’t feel like they have to teach us about the importance of what they have. So, for these possible records too I made sure that I have done my research before contacting her. I got a copy of the book and started reading through that to make sure I know enough background so that she can feel comfortable talking about her research process with me. It’s important for doners to be reassured that we have enough knowledge about their records as part of trust building with the donor. A lot of these steps are now done virtually by having phone conversations or in some cases, zoom calls, and lots of email exchanges. Another example of a doner that I work with virtually is an artist who’s really worried about her legacy, and rightly so. She’s been part of an art movement, in the 70s, in which the focus has been predominantly on men. And she was a really integral figure. She has a lot of concerns about when we can take her materials and unfortunately, we can’t take them anytime soon. So, I’ve had a lot of conversations and exchanges with her reassuring her that we do want the records and have sent her a letter of agreement and interest.

These are the interactions and communications that takes up a lot of my time. I’ve also been focusing on grant writing and I seem to have meetings after meetings after meetings. It’s hard to say when my workday starts and when it ends which brings me to the third major challenge that I’ve been facing during the pandemic. With transitioning to working at home I have no balance between work and life. There is a lot of intellectual work involved in what I do and before, I was able to leave work at the end of the day and be done with that. That’s not possible anymore because work is now my kitchen table and I never leave work. The technological challenges of getting my workspace set up also added to it. I mean, these sound like small things but there was a lot of psychological anxiety regarding getting my remote desktop to work properly and having to update our internet and that sort of thing.

SA: It’s so important to talk about this. We usually talk about how the students are dealing with this pandemic, and how hard it is for us. But we don’t really talk about the management and people who are really trying to make our lives easier, and also get the usual work going as if nothing has happened.

KL: It’s funny, there’s been a lot of conversations at the university around productivity, and the belief that people aren’t working as effectively as before. I’ve heard some saying people are only working maybe 60% of their workdays, and they’re just slacking off the rest of the time. And that has absolutely not been my experience, I think I’m producing and working more. And my hours certainly haven’t shifted, if anything they’ve increased because there’s so many projects. One silver lining of this situation is that we’ve really been able to do a lot of work on cleaning up our metadata. One of our staff has been working on an incredible project by adding subject access points to our records on ATOM. We’re doing everything that we needed to do for ages but couldn’t because the pace of life when we’re on site is so hectic that we never have time to actually do these really important projects. Another project that’s amazing and we wouldn’t really have been able to prioritize it before is one that one of our staff who is a native Mandarin speaker is working on. She is adding Chinese language descriptions and name authorities starting with The Chung Collection and eventually moving to our other fonds about Chinese creators. This is so important because then people that don’t have good English skills will be able to search the collections and find material. And again, you’d think that such an important project should have been done before. Why haven’t we done that already? Because we didn’t have time!

SA: No, I hear you. I also know that you’ve done some arrangement and description yourself, right?

KL: Yeah, so that was back when I was going in RBSC, starting in January. I started going in to RBSC to do arrangement and description, one or two days a week and I did that for a couple of months. It was great because I don’t often get to do arrangement and description, that’s always delegated to students or RBSC’s processing archivist. I’m more like the person that spins the plates and does all the juggling. So that was really great to get back to my roots to do arrangement and description. And it was fun also because I think it helped me be a better teacher. I feel like I can help students learn how to do it better by actually going back and doing it myself again. It was a good kind of refresher in my brain. But then again with the increased restrictions I stopped going in about a month ago.

SA: Yeah. And I know sometimes as archivists we worked with difficult record, and then adding to that this pandemic might cause more, I don’t know, compassion fatigue. Do you feel like that happened to you?

KL: If anything, there is more frustration and exhaustion around the constant anxiety and the worry about the state of the world. Anxiety fatigue and constantly having to worry about the state of my health, worrying about the health of my co-workers and my students, which I care about a great deal not just how you guys are doing in terms of the work you do for us, but how the students and my other amazing colleagues at RBSC are doing with coping with all of this. And then there’s making sure that everybody has projects to work on, not just the students, but that the support staff have meaningful work to do and there is of course my own projects. So yeah, there’s that fatigue for sure. We’re really fortunate though, in the sense at RBSC, they’re like my extended family. And we all are very careful about making sure we’re all okay and are checking in with each other. So that has, I think, alleviated a lot of those emotional labor and fatigue challenges, because we’re not fighting against each other to get things done. We’re all in it together. And I acknowledge that, probably, this is not everyone’s experience. But that has really helped with keeping us going.

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Phil Lind Klondike Gold Rush Collection

Posted on May 12, 2021 @5:22 pm by cshriver

As recently reported, the Phil Lind Klondike Gold Rush Collection has been donated to UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections, along with a generous financial gift. The collection includes over 1800 photographs, hundreds of postcards, as well as textual records, artefacts, and maps of the Klondike Gold Rush era.

RBSC invites its patrons to enjoy the collection through the finding aid, digitally available in our archival database. While the entire collection will be soon be digitized and made available through UBC’s Open Collections, researchers can now explore descriptions for each item in the collection in its archival context through the finding aid.

For users interested in accessing these and other items described in our archival database, please visit the Rare Books and Special Collections Remote Resources and Services Guide.


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And They Called It Vancouver

Posted on April 7, 2021 @9:14 am by cshriver

Many thanks to guest blogger Ashlynn Prasad for contributing the below post! Ashlynn is a graduate of the UBC School of Information and the curator of the new online exhibition of photographs from the Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs, And They Called It Vancouver: Settler-Colonial Relationships to Indigenous Lands and Peoples. Ashlynn’s work on the exhibition was done as part of her 2020-21 Young Canada Works (YCW) post-graduate internship with RBSC. She is currently the Librarian & Archivist at the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

[Illustration for the Golden Jubilee of Vancouver]. UL-1624-02-0239

I first began curating this exhibition, And They Called It Vancouver: Settler-Colonial Relationships to Indigenous Lands and Peoples, in the autumn of 2020, almost exactly three years after my first exhibition of photographs from the Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs. At that time, I was struck by how many items in the collection contained scenes of British Columbia that were familiar to me, even though most of them had been taken nearly a century before I was born, and my curatorial concept for that first exhibition, centered on the unchanging nature of architecture, gathering spaces, and natural landscapes across time.

When I dove back into the Uno Langmann collection this time, something quite different stood out to me. Although most of the images in the collection were taken approximately one hundred years ago, a mere blink of an eye on a historical scale, it seemed to me that many of the photographs were relics of their time, in the sense that they showcased scenes and themes with apparent pride that we today might see with a more critical eye.

An important note about the photographs in this exhibition is that, for the most part, we cannot be certain of the photographers’ intentions. Within the text of the exhibition, I take the liberty of hypothesizing about the purpose of the photographs – why someone at that time would have wanted to document wide swaths of forest that have been logged, or animals that have been killed for sport, or parades marching through downtown Vancouver. Without being certain of the reasons why these photographs may have been captured, these hypotheses are simply meant to express my own interpretation of the photographs, as I parsed through each and every one at the beginning of my curatorial process. I couldn’t help but witness the images through a lens that more critically examines the issues that so many of us care about today: the environment, the fact that we live on stolen lands, what it means to live in a post-industrial world.

“This is the forest primeval”, Stanley Park, B.C. UL-1624-02-0102

The closer I looked at the collection, the more I seemed to find images that fell into one of those three categories. The knowledge of how these lands were stolen and the peoples indigenous to these lands brutally oppressed became the backdrop to how I viewed the entire collection and the exhibition. Images of trees being cut down and smokestacks being raised were not celebrations of burgeoning industry in a young province; they were examples of the destruction of the natural environment. Images of new buildings downtown and the creation of Stanley Park were not examples of progress towards modernization; they were examples of settlers confidently making grand plans for lands that did not and do not belong to them. Some of the images, no matter what their original purpose may have been, became visual evidence of a flagrant disrespect and disregard for Indigenous peoples.

In that sense, the photographers’ intentions in taking the photographs become moot. The purpose of the exhibition is not to uncover the original purpose behind the photographs, but to examine what the photographs can tell us – intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or subconsciously – about the ethos of the time, and how much or how little settlers considered issues like environmentalism, industrialism, and Indigenous peoples’ rights. What is in the photographs, and what is absent from the photographs, is in that sense equally important.

Captain Vancouver Invites You to Vancouver, B.C. UL-1624-02-0242

One of the strengths of historical photographs – and indeed, history in general – is that it can cause us to think more critically about our role in it. How have our pasts shaped us? How will we shape the future? I hope this exhibition encourages us, particularly those of us living on stolen lands, to think more critically about our own roles in the narratives presented here: our relationships to the environment, our relationships to urban development, and our relationships to and with Indigenous peoples. I hope we can more clearly see what’s there, as well as what may be missing.


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