[This is an expanded version of an article originally published in Alumni UBC’s Grad Gazette in 2010]

Before The Pit, the Gallery Lounge, Koerner’s Pub, or any of the other popular student retreats on or around the UBC campus… there was The Dolphin.

The Dolphin Tea House was located on Marine Drive, across from what is now Totem Park at the foot of Agronomy Road. It began as a road-side stop first listed in Henderson’s Directory in 1929 as the Marine Pergola Tea Room and Service Station. Former Sauder School of Business faculty member Anthony Scott described its origins in detail:

The [Vancouver] parks board cut off a big curve of Marine Drive. An entrepreneur set up tables along the fence, and people going for a drive along Marine Drive could have afternoon tea there. A pergola was built over much of the former road (a vine-covered trellis-work, making it a little like a flowery tunnel). The view seaward was great.
They built a central kitchen/building of some kind, so that the “pergola” ran north and south from it.

Advertisement for the Marine Pergola, featuring "DINE and DANCE"

Advertisement for the Marine Pergola (The Ubyssey, 18 November 1932)

Almost from the beginning, the management aimed to attract clientele from the University community – as the advertisement to the right demonstrates. It appears that by 1932 the “central kitchen” described by Dr. Scott had been expanded to allow indoor dining and dancing.

According to Henderson’s Directory, in 1936 the Marine Pergola was re-named Jubilee Park, presumably for either the City of Vancouver’s golden jubilee that year, or the silver jubilee of King George V the year before. By then the establishment was developing quite the high profile. An article in The Ubyssey of 25 September 1936 quoted proprietor Walter Banner regarding a visit by a leading Hollywood actor: “So delighted was Warner Baxter [‘The Cisco Kid’] and his family with the loveliness of the surroundings when here this summer that they spent an entire afternoon in the park”. An advertisement a few pages further along read:

The prettiest and most unique pleasure park around Vancouver . . . charming tea room . . . a floor large enough to really dance on . . . tea tables outside under grape arbors . . . good home-cooked food that is unsurpassed.
MAKE THE JUBILEE PARK YOUR PARTY HEADQUARTERS IN 1936-37

Several weeks later, the column “Random Ramblings” testified to Jubilee Park’s increasing popularity among students, in a style reminiscent of P.G. Wodehouse:

Today’s offering is born out of a mellow, not very fertile mood, the product of a combination of October sunlight, Strauss waltzes and a cut of freshly baked apple pie under the golden grape-vines of Jubilee Park. Fortified with the pie, and the thought of doing nothing but watch the sunny stretches of the Gulf for a whole hour, one can regard the thorny patches of the primrose path with something approaching kindliness and detachment. (The Ubyssey, 13 October 1936)

The grape-vines growing in the arbour around the patio – supposedly 100 yards long – gave the establishment its nickname, “The Vinery”. Its popularity was already such that rumours later that fall of its impending closure supposedly caused “great sorrow on the campus” – “students are hanging their heads in sadness…. Truly, all should weep”, wrote another Ubyssey columnist in November.

Jubilee Park a.k.a. the Vinery didn’t close, but over the 1937 summer break there was a change of ownership. The Directory listed Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harwood and Miss H.D. Darling as the new operators. There was also a name-change, announced in “Random Ramblings”:

In case you’re finding the Caf pandemonium a little too much for the old high blood pressure, we suggest you drop down to the Vinery – pardon, the Dolphin Tea House – one of these days for lunch…. Under new management, the place has gone right wing. Lawns are cut, the dance floor is gone, and the once Spartan interior is full of antiques, old prints, bric-a-brac and good breeding. We counted five natty waitresses rushing politely about…. (The Ubyssey, 24 September 1937)

Two people in silhouette looking out from the trellised patio at the Dolphin

Looking out from the patio at The Dolphin (from The Totem, 1939, p. 38)

According to UBC alumnus and theatre instructor Norman Young, the name was inspired by an antique dolphin figurine that the Harwoods brought back from a trip to Europe. When they bought the Tea House, the dolphin was installed on the front door as a door-knocker.

For the next two years the Dolphin was featured regularly in the social pages of UBC’s student newspaper. Business was good enough to warrant building a second floor and expanding the kitchen and dining room. The Tea House was touted as the ideal place for students to relax with tea or coffee, meet a professor after classes, or host private dance parties. It became a favourite venue for everything from bridge parties to society dinners. The quality of the Dolphin’s menu was enough to rate an entry in Duncan Hines’ Adventures in Good Eating – the only restaurant in Vancouver to be included in the guide’s 1937 edition. According to “Shopping with MaryAnn”,

The Dolphin Tea House is like the prize at the end of the rainbow . . . a nice cosy haven at the end of a brisk walk through the autumn leaves along the windy road . . . for at the sign of the Dolphin one can get the most delicious Vienna coffee . . . in a tall glass and topped with a spot of whipped cream . . . and when the fog is clutching at your tonsils with undulating fingers . . . then is the time for consomme with sherry soup, chicken a la king and your favorite dessert…. (The Ubyssey, 20 October 1939)

After 1939 the Dolphin never enjoyed such a high profile in the student newspaper’s pages. The Second World War curtailed both clientele and business hours, and it shut its doors around 1942, reverting to a private residence. However, Norman Young remembers that the Harwoods still rented out the dining room for private functions – the UBC Players’ Club, for example, held most of its social events there.

Postcard showing the Dolphin Tea House

The Dolphin Tea House (postcard, n.d.)

In 1947 the Tea House reappeared in the Directory under a slightly-different name, The Dolphins – Mrs. E.A. Shirlaw was listed as the manager. The following year W.O. Ivey was listed as the proprietor, and management continued to change every few years afterward as the Tea House struggled to re-capture its pre-war popularity.

Through the late 1940s and 1950s The Dolphins also became the focus of occasional efforts to bring a pub or similar liquor-serving establishment to UBC. The first such attempt came in 1948 when the campus branch of the Royal Canadian Legion proposed turning it into a “wet canteen” for its members. Their plan never went forward, due to a lack of funds and the difficulty in obtaining a liquor license.

The gradual loosening of provincial liquor laws during this period would occasionally inspire editorials in The Ubyssey in favour of turning The Dolphins into an English-style country pub:

The westering sun shining through one’s glass, the crackle of the fire reassuring to one’s ears, the quiet and delightful conversation of, what is so unusual in a Vancouver drinking establishment, a human who does not have to shout in one’s ear to make himself heard…. Quiet feet on the rug, walking through the shaft of sunlight that pours through the leaded windows, a waiter appearing discreetly at your elbow. “Your pleasure, sir?” “Four here, please, and another four for those interesting young ladies in the corner seat.” (The Ubyssey, 16 October 1957)

One main obstacle to such proposals was the opposition of the UBC Senate to liquor sales on or near the campus.  Another issue was The Dolphins’ physical location, west of Marine Drive – not actually on the campus, but in Marine Drive Foreshore Park, which was property of the Vancouver Park Board and so not eligible for a liquor license.

The Dolphins continued to operate through the 1950s, serving as a social gathering place for students and faculty and hosting events such as a luncheon during the 1956 B.C. Academy of Science conference. However, it faced increasing competition from new, more conveniently-located eating and social establishments such as the Faculty Club and the Bus Stop Café.

The last reference to the Tea House in The Ubyssey was in March 1960: a simple classified ad, looking for information regarding a road accident nearby. By this time, according to Henderson’s Directory Mr. and Mrs. S.E.B. Avefjall were the managers, under contract to the Park Board. The following year the property was taken over by UBC, and the building was demolished to make room for the First Nations wood-carving activities at Totem Park. Today, all that remains of The Dolphin(s) Tea House is its parking lot, located just south of Wreck Beach Trail 6 and administered as part of Pacific Spirit Regional Park.

Sources:

[The following was written by Kai Geddes, currently working for the UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme]

While continuing my academic career at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as a Masters in Library and Information Studies (MLIS) graduate student in September of 2019, from Vancouver Island University (VIU), I had the opportunity to attain a Work Learn position as a digitization student assistant at the UBC Archives.

Having worked as a Work Learn student at the Indigenously rich campus of VIU as a Services for Aboriginal Students Cultural Events Coordinator at the Gathering Place (Shq’apthut), and an Archival Student Assistant (the first at VIU, where I worked on the very extensive Milner Garden fonds), I was eager to start working on UBC campus.  I was not sure which position I would get hired for after I sent in a few employment applications in the middle of August of 2019. Thankfully, I received an email from UBC Archives asking me to come in for an interview in early September for the Digitization Student Assistant position. During my interview I was able to gloss over my Indigenous heritage and my work experience at VIU. Later that day, I received an email that I got hired.

As a Digitization Student Assistant, my hours were spent retrieving photographs and negatives from the UBC Archives vault, scanning them, and then by using Adobe, touching them up with the program’s digitization tools.  The most difficult to touch-up are white spots which appear because of the degradation of film negatives; there are also large wrinkles called “channels,” and discolouration due to the age of the cellulose film that was used.  All of these are problematic, but there are ways to improve the quality of the images through digitization. I also assisted with community order requests, such as photographs for magazines or television shows, digitizing cassette tapes for educational institutions, and photographs such as sports teams and those from yearbooks or magazines.

When COVID-19 led to the closure of most of its facilities and services on campus in Mid-March of 2020, including the Irving K. Barber Library where the UBC Archives is located, my duties as a Digitization Student Assistant changed along with it. However, despite this, I had a very fortunate opportunity presented to me: to look over the UBC Archives’ website and recommend, if any, changes that could be made from an Indigenous perspective. Through the lens of an Indigenous student who has taken several classes on the subject, I was in a unique position to see what might be regarded as problematic for Indigenous Peoples.

One such example is the term First Nations, which has become somewhat outdated due to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which today recommends using Indigenous instead of terms like Indian, Aboriginal, or First Nations. However, of course, there are some exceptions to this recommendation such as Native American for those residing in the United States, and Aborigines for people who first occupied Australia and New Zealand. A rough draft of my findings was sent to the UBC Archivist for feedback and a final report will be sent in October 2020.

After taking classes and working from home over the summer, I was happy to return the UBC Archives and work with archival materials—this time as an Archival Processing Student Assistant. While I have had experience working with fonds, as mentioned above, I have not worked alone on receiving an accrued acquisition from its very beginning. Of course, I did have supervision from the University’s Archivist for my work on this accrual to the Allon Peebles fonds. The process began with sorting the materials into the previous eight categories of the existing fonds (which I extended to nine), which were provided from the work done by previous Work Learn students. After that was done, I added the materials to the finding aid which later needed to be updated with new descriptions, notes, and the number of materials added to the fonds.

At the end of August of 2021, I will be receiving my MLIS graduate degree with a First Nations Curriculum Concentration which in part is due to my Indigenous work at the UBC Archives over the summer of 2020.  My experience working at the UBC Archives has been a very positive one; unfortunately, I have heard from counselors that this is not the case for most Indigenous students in the Work Learn program. I do not know the details of exactly why their experiences have been troublesome, but I can see how fitting into a predominantly colonial educational institution may be uncomfortable for some.

Moving forward, after graduation I hope to continue my studies at UBC in the iSchool’s PhD program in September of 2021. My focus will be on Indigenous issues such as identity and what it means in Canada for those who are bi-racial (those who have one parent who is Indigenous and the other parent who is from a colonial background) – who are “living on the hyphen” (balancing both identities and not considering one to be more dominant than the other).

Kleco! Kleco! [Thank you!]

One of the projects undertaken by our colleagues at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections during the COVID-19 shut-down of on-campus operations  has been to develop a new on-line guide to Chinese-Canadian materials in their collections.  One of the subjects being researched for this project was the identity of the first Chinese-Canadian graduate of UBC.

Racist attitudes towards Chinese immigrants were prevalent in Canada, especially in British Columbia, early in the 20th Century, as were discriminatory government policies.  The federal government’s head tax, charged to each Chinese person entering Canada, continued to be levied until 1923.  That year the Chinese Immigration Act abolished the tax while banning almost all immigration from China.  Nevertheless, members of the immigrant community continued to successfully improve their economic and social status despite the systemic racism they encountered in both public policy and in society at large.  As Chinese students were exempt from the immigration ban, one possible way for them to do so was to pursue higher education.

While there were no official barriers at UBC and Chinese students were presumably welcomed by the administration like any other students, the University was still part of British Columbia society and so still reflected that society’s attitudes.  White students, even if they otherwise did their best to treat a Chinese classmate as one of their own, would sometimes reveal the racist attitudes that they grew up with.  For example, terms like “Celestial” (a slang term for anybody of Chinese descent, China being nicknamed “The Celestial Kingdom”) or “Chinaman”, or worse, occasionally found their way onto the printed pages of the Annual (a.k.a. the Totem) yearbook and the Ubyssey student newspaper.

Graduation photo of Thomas Moore Whaun, Arts '27, from the 1927 Totem yearbook.The initial draft of the new RBSC on-line guide stated that Thomas Moore Whaun (left) was the first Chinese-Canadian graduate of UBC.  Born as Tung Mow Wong in China in 1893, he immigrated to Canada in 1907 – anglicizing his name in the process.  According to back issues of the UBC Calendar Whaun entered UBC in 1921.  He took two years off from his studies to work for the Canada Morning News newspaper, and eventually graduated as a member of the Arts 1927 class.  According the Totem for that year:

An ardent student of Economics and History, and an extensive reader, he loves to get to the bottom of all social problems. Thoroughly versed in Chinese affairs, Moore may often be found explaining the situation in the Far East to a group of interested students.

After reviewing the guide, UBC Chinese Language Librarian Jing Liu noted that several members of the Yip family had attended UBC earlier than 1921, and that there might have been other Chinese-Canadian students during that period.  RBSC Archivist Krisztina Laszlo then reached out to the University Archives for more information.

Searching digitized issues of both the Calendar and the yearbook did indeed reveal more information.  While the yearbooks listed the members of each graduating class, with accompanying biographical sketches and graduation photographs, in those days the Calendar listed all students registered each year, making it relatively easy to track students’ progress.  This is a case where referring to published (secondary) sources is as effective, and far easier, than going through original (primary) sources, such as old student records from the Registrar’s Office, which were not available for review anyway due to pandemic restrictions.

Photo of Quene Yip as member of 1925-26 UBC first soccer team, from 1926 Totem yearbookA search of the Calendar showed that several members of the Yip family did indeed attend UBC in those early days.  Kew Park Yip registered in the Faculty of Agriculture in 1918, then transferred to Arts in 1919.  Kew Ghim Yip registered in Arts in 1920.  Later that decade, Quene Kew Yip (right) and Kew Dock Yip entered Arts in 1925 and 1926, respectively.  Quene Yip joined the varsity soccer team and track team as a freshman, and had an immediate impact:

Quene Yip, the Chinese star, needs no introduction to Vancouver soccer lovers, but there may be some students who have not been privileged to see him perform yet. He is rated as one of the best centers on the Pacific Coast, and he well deserves that reputation. He is tricky, clean and fast. (Totem, 1926)

Other Chinese-Canadian students from that period include John Shih Chu, who joined Kew Park Yip in Agriculture in 1918; Thomas Chu, who registered in the Faculty of Arts in 1919; Violet Wong and Sow Poon Wong, both of whom entered Arts in 1922; and Shu-Yen Chen and Jung Bow Wing, listed in the Calendar as being from China, and who both entered Arts in 1916.  However, none of these individuals are listed as graduates from UBC, either in the Calendar or the yearbook.  We assume that they either did not continue their studies, or transferred to other colleges or universities – Quene Yip, for example, transferred to Queen’s University.  Whether this was due to racist attitudes that they encountered on campus, or other unrelated reasons, is unknown.

Going even further back in time, McGill University College of British Columbia, UBC’s immediate post-secondary predecessor, also attracted some Chinese-Canadians to register as students.  May Susan Ling Yipsang was registered as a first-year at McGill BC in 1914, but did not continue her studies.

Bertha Hosang registered in the Arts programme in 1910, and continued at McGill BC for two years.  She made enough of an impression for the 1911 Annual to use a quote from the classic Japanese story Genji Monogatara or The Tale of Genji to describe her as “So young and bright” (that it was incongruous, if not bizarre, to quote a Japanese work to describe a Chinese student, as if the two “Oriental” nationalities were interchangeable, didn’t seem to occur to the editors).  The 1913 Annual tells readers that Bertha went on to the Vancouver Business Institute, “where she was awarded a special prize for her accurate work”.

Photo of George Y.K. Shuen from 1913 McGill BC AnnualFinally, flipping the pages of UBC (pre)history back to 1909, the McGill BC Calendar notes that George Y.K. Shuen (right) registered in Arts that year; dropping out after one term, he returned and entered the Applied Science programme in 1911.  A recent immigrant from China, George Shuen’s residence is given as Vancouver in the McGill UBC Calendar, while in the 1913 Annual he’s described as having been “born somewhere in China or thereabouts”.  The patronizing tone of that editorial remark is exacerbated by later referring to him as a “Celestial”.

As McGill BC was only a two-year college, students would have had to go elsewhere to complete their degrees – we must assume that George Shuen did so.  However, it is safe to say that he was the first Chinese-Canadian to attend what would later become UBC.

Graduation photo of Esther Fong Dickman (Arts '26) from the 1926 Totem yearbookBut what about those Chinese-Canadian students who actually graduated from UBC?  The year before Thomas Whaun received his degree, Esther Evangeline Fong Dickman (left) was a member of Arts 1926.  Her bio in the Totem read, in part, “Mathematician, platonist, and erstwhile philosopher, Esther is the class enigma.  She divides the principal part of her time between the Students’ International Club, the Math. Club, the S.C.M., Phil. essays (of all things), Economics, and a few other cheerful divertissements. Favorite occupation, starting for the library. Esther plans to follow the teaching profession…”.  According to Lisa Smedman’s Immigrants: Stories of Vancouver’s people, She was the daughter of Reverend Fong Dickman (born Fong Tak Man), a Methodist minister and prominent member of the Vancouver Island Chinese community.  Esther Fong Dickman was the first Chinese-Canadian woman to graduate from UBC.

Graduation photo of Inglis Hosang (Arts '19) from the 1919 UBC Annual yearbookGoing back further, to 1919, the Annual lists Inglis Hosang (right), the brother of Bertha Hosang, as a graduate from the Faculty of Arts that year.  He was noted as being “… of no small scholarly attainments, and is an accomplished linguist. He won the oratorical contest (in his Sophomore year), and, as a Junior, helped to defeat Washington in the international debate”.  He returned to campus the following year to give a public lecture on “China and the Shantung Problem”.  According to the October 1945 Graduate Chronicle he went on to earn a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley (1931), after which he moved to England, was called to the English Bar in 1934, and became a barrister-at-law.  Hosang later lived in Hong Kong until the Japanese invasion of 1937 – he then moved back to Vancouver where he joined the law firm of A.J.B. Mellish.  He died in August 1945.

Neither the Annual nor the Calendar list any Chinese-Canadians by name as UBC graduates prior to 1919.  So the Archives can confirm that Inglis Hosang (Arts 1919) was the first Chinese-Canadian to graduate from this university.  He, George Y.K. Shuen, Esther Fong Dickman, and others from the McGill BC and early UBC days deserve recognition for their achievements against the prevailing attitudes of their era.  Other current and past Chinese-Canadian UBC students – indeed, all members of the UBC community – owe them a debt of gratitude for contributing to the evolution of a more diverse and welcoming institution.

(Updated 6 November 2020)

(Thanks to Krisztina Laszlo and Jing Liu for their helpful comments on an early draft of this article)

[The following was written by Manfred Nissley, currently working for the UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme]

A year after starting at the University of British Columbia as an archival science and library science student, a work-learn position opened up in University Archives. I applied for this position because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to put my archival science education into practice.

As an archival processing assistant for the University Archives, my job is to process accessions acquired according to University Records Management schedules or through donations from private parties.  I have discovered the clear differences between these types of accession. These differences mean there is often something unique to consider during processing.

Each project I have worked on has come with its own unique challenges. These challenges often depended on whether the creator of a fonds had a coherent records management system, a typical situation for university records, or if a private party simply tossed documents and ephemera in a box without a clear order of arrangement. While extra time must be spent with a disorganized fonds, the extra time needed allows the processor to become intimate with the materials. This intimacy would prove to be rather valuable for me during the CoVid-19 pandemic.

I have worked on so many projects that detailing all the projects I have completed is impossible. So, I am only going to highlight some of my favorites and state that my projects ranged from only a few centimetres to several metres. Some of these projects ended up providing opportunities to make personal connections with fonds creators. Others featured random situations that caused me to reflect on the importance of my work preserving records for family members and future researchers.

One such random situation came while I processed the School of Social Work fonds soon after I was hired. The records were from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s and were rather convoluted. The fonds contained personal identifiable information (PII), deliberately preserved organic material, random coins, and student art that had been distorted due to severe off-gassing. Decisions had to be made throughout the processing about how to best preserve or destroy (especially the PII) these items or their storage containers. Halfway through the project, I became curious about the creators of the records, so I decided to begin my research for the administrative history section of the finding aid by looking into the histories of the administrators. When I researched Elaine Stoler, the department director from 1993-1998, I was surprised to learn she died a few days after I started processing the fonds!

Another favorite project featured several boxes of random ephemera and records belonging to multiple fonds. My task was to research these items, discover to which fonds they belonged, and process any unprocessed fonds. Some of my favorite finds included President Frank Wesbrook’s portfolio case (my all-time favorite find), a box of specimen slides of ocean dwelling microorganisms from the late 19th century, numerous medals and plaques, and the unprocessed accessions of Laurence Meredith and Valerie Haig-Brown. This project is a great reminder of the importance of documenting storage and recovery activities, especially during a crisis. Some of the ephemera had been temporarily misplaced in remote storage after a break-in at the archives many years ago. This misplacement resulted finding aids being updated over time to include notes about missing items.

The processing of the Meredith and Haig-Brown fonds was interesting as well. Both of these UBC Alumni and Ubyssey writers had storied careers. Valerie Haig-Brown, like her father Roderick, is an author and a particularly important conservation activist in the Pacific Northwest. She was a high-school track and field star who joined the Vancouver Olympic Club and was in consideration for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

Laurence Meredith, also a writer for the Ubyssey, was initially a high school teacher upon graduation. However, he soon moved to London and became a reporter for United Press International, eventually being made head of the Portugal office. He joined the Royal Air Force during WW2 and survived a parachuteless 1000 foot fall that did not end his military career. His fonds was sent around the world to UBC after his death in 1990.

Another project featured Florence McNeil, also a Ubyssey writer. Florence, an author, married Mr. McNeal, but she kept McNeil as her nom de plume. According to a memorial published in Trek magazine, McNeil was known for being evasive about her personal details. To ensure that McNeil can be properly identified in the future by archivists and researchers, statements about her husband’s name and nom de plume were included in the fonds’ Finding Aid.

One of my recent projects featured the fonds of Professor of Creative Writing Keith Maillard, who is also writer by profession. As a genealogist, this project was particularly interesting because the fonds includes a significant amount of family history and genealogical research. It also included a large amount of ephemera of Keith’s estranged father, which is discussed in Keith’s memoir Fatherless. I was curious about Keith’s genealogical story, his anti-war history, and the potential original order of some records. So, I reached out to him. He ended up sending me a signed copy of his memoir Fatherless, which is a must-read in my opinion.

I mentioned earlier that in some cases intimate knowledge of a fonds contents is a benefit. During CoVid-19, I was relegated to working from home. To keep me busy, I was given the main task of creating and editing Wikipedia pages dedicated to the people whose fonds on which I worked. The intimacy allowed me to use memorized information to recall what appropriate search strings and additional sources I needed to use to create and edit those pages according to Wikipedia standards.

One further note. It is rather interesting to me that many of the donated fonds I have processed were created by individuals who were editors and writers for the Ubyssey. As a genealogist, I find this relationship with the Ubyssey as almost a familial bond. It is my belief that that ties like this should be used by archives to promote the facility to those were part of that long standing culture. To that end, if you are reading this blog post and you were an editor or writer for the Ubyssey, please consider donating your papers to the University Archives. Your papers will be preserved and be in good company with other Ubyssey alumni. And don’t worry, if you moved to another nation, we can still take your papers – for example, Laurence Meredith’s archive travelled halfway around the world to get back to UBC.

[The following was written by Trang Dang, who worked in UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme from September 2019 to April 2020]

Being a graduate student of the UBC School of Information with an interest in archival processing, the Work Learn position with the UBC Archives provided me significant practical experiences. It helped reinforce my knowledge of archival theory and records management.

Since September 2019, I worked on several fonds and collections, including both institutional and personal records. With little previous working experience in archives, the gradual complexity of the assigned projects certainly helped me to become more proficient with archival arrangement and description.

I found personal archives unique and interesting, but it was not short of challenges, especially when records arrived “loose” with no obvious order, making it difficult to construct the context behind each record.

I started off with the accrued accession of the Joy Coghill fonds, from a Vancouver-based theatre director and actress, and a UBC alumna. It contained personal correspondence, miscellaneous records, and photographs. As the accrual didn’t have an “original” order, and the fonds was already arranged, the challenge came from identifying the records and assigning them to the appropriate existing series.

The photographs, which came in loose with many letters and cards in a black plastic bag, also posed difficulties due to the lack of context. Only a few of the prints had written information on the back such as dates, names and events, whereas the 35mm negatives were very small, making it hard to determine the subject. After consulting with my supervisor, we decided to keep only photographs with Joy Coghill in them, both by herself and with other individuals. Most of those individuals were unidentifiable except for Coghill’s immediate family such as her mother, husband, and daughters. To help with identification of some of the events and people a relative of Coghill had agreed to come to the Archives, and she went through the photographs with us. The prints that she couldn’t identify were then scanned and emailed to Coghill’s daughter for further assistance. Unprocessed and unidentified materials were returned to Coghill’s family.

The small research collection on Sister Mary Gonzaga collected by Barbara Gibson was straight-forward in terms of arrangement and description. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to discover that Sister Gonzaga’s letters were being held at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections. These two collections are closely connected and complement each other.

Eventually, the projects became bigger in size and so did my tasks, including researching historical background, identifying the intellectual order, and compiling the description for the entire fonds. Processing the personal archives of Laurenda Daniells, the first University Archivist, was not too challenging as the majority of records relating to her professional life had already been arranged in series upon accrual. However, similar to the difficulties encountered in Joy Coghill fonds, more time was needed to process the materials recording her personal life.

On the other hand, institutional records also came with its own challenges. For the Division of Industrial Education fonds, I first needed to compile the file list of each box. As the fonds didn’t come in an “original” order, my job was to determine the series and then physically rearrange the records accordingly.

The most challenging project were the records of the Xwi7xwa Library, a sous-fonds of the Library fonds. The difficulty arose from the complicated history of the records creator. Before becoming the official branch of the UBC Library, it was part of the Indian Education Resources Centre, and then the First Nations House of Learning. As it was not easy to determine which records were created by the Xwi7xwa Library itself, we decided to keep all except for duplicate records, and those that contained personal information.

Overall, besides the hands-on experiences in archival processing, my biggest lesson taken from this Work Learn position was the importance of decision-making and its documentation. Sometimes the archivist has to determine the order of the archives, and sometimes it might not be the best arrangement, therefore, it is critical to document any decisions during the process.

Businesses, educational institutions, and many other institutions have closed or at least severely limited public access.  Hospitals are struggling to deal with waves of sick individuals, with other facilities being converted into makeshift hospitals.  Citizens are being told to stay home as much as possible, and to avoid gathering in groups.  Everybody is listening to news reports from foreign countries, documenting mounting death tolls and rising social tensions, while waiting with a growing sense of dread for the situation at home to get worse.

While this sounds like the current COVID-19 epidemic, the situation described applies to a similar crisis that hit Vancouver and the University of British Columbia over a century ago: the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19 (a.k.a. the “Spanish flu”), that afflicted the entire world as the First World War was drawing to a close.

The first case of influenza was reported in Vancouver on 5 October 1918; the first death was recorded on the 10th.  The number of daily reported cases spiraled upwards rapidly, reaching 522 on the 22nd October, while the death rate peaked on 27 October when 24 died that day.

Life on the original UBC Fairview campus (where Vancouver General Hospital stands today) began to change within a few days of the local appearance of the flu virus.  By 14 October local hospitals had become so overcrowded that the Auditorium and an adjacent classroom building were taken over by VGH.  An improvised hospital ward with 100 beds was quickly set up, exclusively for influenza cases – access to students and all other non-medical personnel was cut off.  The Board of Governors declared that they had “consented to this occupation on the representation of the city health officer and of the hospital board that such additional accommodation in the vicinity of the hospital is absolutely necessary in the present situation, and their assurance that the use of the buildings for this purpose will not be a source of danger to the students” (The Province, 14 October 1918).

Closure of the auditorium forced the relocation of several classes.  Some were moved to the local Baptist Church, others to the science drafting room, and one was even held in the stack room of the Library.  Students’ Council meetings had to be held in a corridor, among stacked furniture removed from the council room.  By Friday the 18th a meeting of the student body had passed a resolution asking the Board of Governors to close the university until conditions improved.

The announcement that University classes would be suspended due to the epidemic was made on 20 October.  The closure would last five weeks, forcing the re-vamping of the entire academic calendar.  Christmas exams would eventually be delayed until February, and the second term extended by two weeks.  All student activities, such as sporting events, theatre productions, and publication of the Ubyssey, were also cancelled.  When the war ended on 11 November, there was no opportunity for the University community, born in war-time only three years earlier, to celebrate.

Not only were regular classes disrupted by the epidemic – other educational groups based on the campus saw their activities interrupted as well.  These included the Vancouver Institute, which had to cancel or re-schedule several lectures that fall, and the Vancouver Natural History Society.  Evening classes in botany were also postponed indefinitely.

Although classes and social activities were suspended, UBC students and staff did not remain idle.  Some served as orderlies at the hospital, while others worked for the city relief offices and other organizations helping citizens cope during the crisis.  The women of the student Red Cross Society, led by Modern Languages instructor Isabel MacInnes, volunteered as nurses in the VGH influenza ward.  Some of them also found time to make over 300 flu masks and sew 65 pairs of pajamas.  The demonstrated importance of nurses in the treatment of flu patients, whether trained professionals or volunteers, would serve as an impetus to the establishment of UBC’s nursing programme in 1919.

Many students became sick, either during the virus’s first devastating onslaught that fall, or in one of the epidemic’s later waves.  Three students died: H.G. (Horace) Stedman, Wilfrid Moore, and David W. Murray – a fourth, Gerald M. “Shorty” Harvey, had enlisted in the armed forces and died from influenza during basic training.  All were eulogized in the 1919 Annual as “brilliant… promising young men” whose deaths were “deeply felt by students and faculty alike”.  Enrollment still numbered only several hundred, and the University was still a very small, close-knit community.  The deaths of these young men, seemingly spared the horrors of war only to be cut down by disease, affected everybody especially hard.

After the epidemic’s peak in late October the infection and death rates went into steep decline, and the flu had seemingly all but disappeared by the end of November.  Classes resumed on 26 November, and within a week academic and social activities had returned to near-regular routines.  However, the epidemic would soon return: two more waves followed, peaking in January and March, both of which were less extensive than the original outbreak, but with a relatively higher fatality rate.

And then it was over.  Students were left to look back upon what they had survived, and what they had accomplished.  As was written in the “Foreword” of the 1919 Annual, with just a hint of stiff-upper-lipped understatement:

The work of all classes was much disorganised and everyone felt a little out of poise.  But it has been highly pleasing to see the mutual feeling between the Faculty and student body in attempting to regain that which was lost, and to make the present count for the most.

Hopefully, once the current COVID-19 epidemic has subsided, today’s UBC community will be able to look back with similar sentiments.

Sources:

Tuum Est by Harry T. Logan (1958)
UBC Scrapbooks (1890-1941) – clippings from local newspapers
1919 Annual
Andrews, Margaret W., “Epidemic and Public Health: Influenza in Vancouver, 1918-1919”, BC Studies, No. 34, Summer 1977.

The University of British Columbia Archives is now closed to the public until further notice. Archives staff are working remotely and are able to assist with some reference questions. Inquiries can be sent through our contact form.

During this period, be sure to explore digitized materials from the Archives’ collections available on our website and through UBC Library’s Open Collections.

See also UBC Library’s official announcement for further information on Library-wide closures.

Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

*** UPDATE: Please also see the Remote Resources and Services Guide for UBC Archives and UBC Rare Books and Special Collections for more details and assistance.

The University Archives has added a feature to our website that enhances access to our historical photograph collections.

Most of our photographs are acquired as part of a distinct fonds or collection.  As the records are arranged and described, each photograph is given a distinct catalogue number or “identifier”.  Each identifier has two parts, a collection number and an item number, separated by a forward slash.  For example, this photograph has the identifier “UBC 3.1/52”, showing that it belongs to collection UBC 3.1 (part of the Department of University Extension fonds) and is image 52 of that collection.

Our new UBC Archives Photograph Collections page lists those collections which include photographs, by collection number and title.  This allows researchers to easily limit their searches by specific collections, instead of having to compile an Open Collections “advanced search“.  For example, a researcher wanting to search for images from UBC’s Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (now Land and Food Sciences) simply clicks on collection number 24.1/.  Similarly, images acquired as part of a photo album created by UBC student Albert E. “Ab” Richards (B.A. 1923) can view them by clicking 158.1/.

Researchers can also still search the entire historical photograph database, if they wish.

The University of British Columbia Archives recently assisted the Canadian Music Centre in British Columbia in the production of a short documentary film on the work of composer, ethnomusicologist, and UBC School of Music professor Elliot Weisgarber.

The film is part of CMC BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series, celebrating the first generation of Canadian composers to write Western concert music on the West Coast of Canada.  The films each honour one of five B.C. composers, in addition to Weisgarber:  Murray Adaskin, Barbara Pentland, Rudolf Komorous, and Jean Coulthard.  According to CMC BC, “Each of them contributed something unique, completely new and remarkable to the nation’s cultural mosaic, both through their body of work and the living legacy of students they inspired”.

The six-minute film, directed by John Bolton, is titled Aki-No-Hinode (Japanese for “Autumn Sunrise”), after one of Weisgarber’s short works for flute and piano.  Weisgarber’s daughter, Karen Suzanne Smithson, discovered the previously-unknown piece in her parents’ garage in 2002 while sorting through some of her father’s belongings looking for manuscripts to donate to the Archives.

Throughout the film, the sparse notes of Weisgarber’s composition, played on flute and piano, can be heard in the background, while the camera focusses on the manuscripts.  An emotional highlight is Smithson’s story of her discovery of the Aki-No-Hinode manuscript, and playing it “possibly for the first time”.

Aki-No-Hinode was shot in the Mackenzie Seminar Room in UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, with additional scenes showing the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) where the Weisgarber manuscripts are stored.  Karen Smithson and archivist Erwin Wodarczak are featured.  Smithson talks about her father and his work, his fascination with Asian music, and how as a composer he was a pioneer in incorporating Asian (in particular Japanase) influences and instrumentation into Western concert music.  Wodarczak describes how archival collections are stored and can be retrieved from the ASRS.  “There’s a story behind every document, behind every collection” like Weisgarber’s, he says, and describes how gratifying it is when such collections are entrusted to the Archives for safe-keeping.

The film had its debut at an Elliot Weisgarber celebration at the CMC BC’s Creative Hub in Vancouver in April.  It can now be viewed on-line.  The Aki-No-Hinode manuscript is one of 450 compositions by Elliot Weisgarber included in his collection, consisting of textual records and audio recordings, held in the University Archives.

The University of British Columbia Archives recently assisted the Canadian Music Centre in British Columbia in the production of a short documentary film on the work of composer, ethnomusicologist, and UBC School of Music professor Elliot Weisgarber.

The film is part of CMC BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series, celebrating the first generation of Canadian composers to write Western concert music on the West Coast of Canada.  The films each honour one of five B.C. composers, in addition to Weisgarber:  Murray Adaskin, Barbara Pentland, Rudolf Komorous, and Jean Coulthard.  According to CMC BC, “Each of them contributed something unique, completely new and remarkable to the nation’s cultural mosaic, both through their body of work and the living legacy of students they inspired”.

The six-minute film, directed by John Bolton, is titled Aki-No-Hinode (Japanese for “Autumn Sunrise”), after one of Weisgarber’s short works for flute and piano.  Weisgarber’s daughter, Karen Suzanne Smithson, discovered the previously-unknown piece in her parents’ garage in 2002 while sorting through some of her father’s belongings looking for manuscripts to donate to the Archives.

Throughout the film, the sparse notes of Weisgarber’s composition, played on flute and piano, can be heard in the background, while the camera focusses on the manuscripts.  An emotional highlight is Smithson’s story of her discovery of the Aki-No-Hinode manuscript, and playing it “possibly for the first time”.

Aki-No-Hinode was shot in the Mackenzie Seminar Room in UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, with additional scenes showing the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) where the Weisgarber manuscripts are stored.  Karen Smithson and archivist Erwin Wodarczak are featured.  Smithson talks about her father and his work, his fascination with Asian music, and how as a composer he was a pioneer in incorporating Asian (in particular Japanase) influences and instrumentation into Western concert music.  Wodarczak describes how archival collections are stored and can be retrieved from the ASRS.  “There’s a story behind every document, behind every collection” like Weisgarber’s, he says, and describes how gratifying it is when such collections are entrusted to the Archives for safe-keeping.

The film had its debut at an Elliot Weisgarber celebration at the CMC BC’s Creative Hub in Vancouver in April.  It can now be viewed on-line.  The Aki-No-Hinode manuscript is one of 450 compositions by Elliot Weisgarber included in his collection, consisting of textual records and audio recordings, held in the University Archives.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library

Info:

604.822.6375

Renewals: 

604.822.3115
604.822.2883
250.807.9107

Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia

Spam prevention powered by Akismet