[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.

The University of British Columbia Archives has a new website: http://archives.library.ubc.ca/!

This is a significant milestone, for several reasons.  It is the first re-design of the Archives’ website since March 2010.  Also, it coincides with the migration of the site to UBC Library’s WordPress web platform.  Finally, the updated design is now fully consistent with the Library’s Common Look and Feel (CLF) website branding.

All of our on-line historical resources – including inventories of textual records, digitized photographs and publications, virtual displays, and general historical information about the University – are still available, as are links to our access policies and procedures, records management services, and Flickr and Twitter accounts.  A standard WordPress search tool for the website is available on every page.  News and updates can be accessed on our blog, now located at http://archives.library.ubc.ca/news/.

Links to the old website should be automatically re-directed to the appropriate part of the new site.  Please let us know about any broken links or other errors.

Thanks to Yvonne Chan for technical support and advice during the re-design.

We invite you to explore the new website at http://archives.library.ubc.ca/.

The University of British Columbia Archives has a new website: https://archives.library.ubc.ca/!

This is a significant milestone, for several reasons.  It is the first re-design of the Archives’ website since March 2010.  Also, it coincides with the migration of the site to UBC Library’s WordPress web platform.  Finally, the updated design is now fully consistent with the Library’s Common Look and Feel (CLF) website branding.

All of our on-line historical resources – including inventories of textual records, digitized photographs and publications, virtual displays, and general historical information about the University – are still available, as are links to our access policies and procedures, records management services, and Flickr and Twitter accounts.  A standard WordPress search tool for the website is available on every page.  News and updates can be accessed on our blog, now located at https://archives.library.ubc.ca/news/.

Links to the old website should be automatically re-directed to the appropriate part of the new site.  Please let us know about any broken links or other errors.

Thanks to Yvonne Chan for technical support and advice during the re-design.

We invite you to explore the new website at https://archives.library.ubc.ca/.

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia[Update: A Memorial will be held at the University Hill Congregation, 6050 Chancellor Blvd. (Google Maps), Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The service will be preceded by lunch at noon and followed by a reception. Parking is available at the UBC Rose Garden parkade.]

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia, died peacefully at her home on Wednesday evening, 4 January 2017, surrounded by the love of her children and grandchildren.

Laurenda was born in Winnipeg in 1923.  She attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in social work in 1945. Her first job was with the protection division of the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg.

In May 1948 she married Roy Daniells, recently appointed as head of the English Department at the University of British Columbia, and moved with him to Vancouver. She and Roy purchased an empty lot on Allison Road in the University Hill neighbourhood, where they built one of the first homes in the progressive “West Coast Modern” style.  Together they raised two daughters (Susan and Sara), and enjoyed European and African travel adventures.  In particular, she and her family spent a year in Europe in 1959-60, during Roy’s sabbatical supported by a Canada Council grant.  Laurenda also served three terms as a school board trustee, and did a considerable amount of volunteer work.

In 1969 Laurenda returned to school and entered the one-year Library Science degree programme at UBC.  After graduating, she followed that with a six-week archival management course at the Public Archives of Canada.  In 1970 she was appointed the first University Archivist at UBC Library’s Special Collections Division.  Alone in this position for many years, Laurenda worked to bring some order to the institution’s historical records.  She organized those materials which had already accumulated in Special Collections, and arranged for the acquisition of additional  inactive administrative records from the various University departments, as well as private papers from prominent faculty, staff, and alumni.  By the time she retired in 1988 with the honorary title “University Archivist Emerita”, Laurenda had established the University Archives on firm foundations.

During her career at UBC Laurenda served for several years on the Faculty Association executive, and on the University Senate.  She also served a one-year term as president of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C.

After her retirement Laurenda continued with her volunteer work, in particular her continuing involvement with University Hill United Church.  She enjoyed writing, and in her eighties began recording her life stories with the Brock Hall Life Writers Group.  In 2016 these stories were collected in her published memoir, Royal Blood.

Roy Daniells died in 1978.  Laurenda is survived by her two daughters, and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements to be announced.

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia[Update: A Memorial will be held at the University Hill Congregation, 6050 Chancellor Blvd. (Google Maps), Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The service will be preceded by lunch at noon and followed by a reception. Parking is available at the UBC Rose Garden parkade.]

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia, died peacefully at her home on Wednesday evening, 4 January 2017, surrounded by the love of her children and grandchildren.

Laurenda was born in Winnipeg in 1923.  She attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in social work in 1945. Her first job was with the protection division of the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg.

In May 1948 she married Roy Daniells, recently appointed as head of the English Department at the University of British Columbia, and moved with him to Vancouver. She and Roy purchased an empty lot on Allison Road in the University Hill neighbourhood, where they built one of the first homes in the progressive “West Coast Modern” style.  Together they raised two daughters (Susan and Sara), and enjoyed European and African travel adventures.  In particular, she and her family spent a year in Europe in 1959-60, during Roy’s sabbatical supported by a Canada Council grant.  Laurenda also served three terms as a school board trustee, and did a considerable amount of volunteer work.

In 1969 Laurenda returned to school and entered the one-year Library Science degree programme at UBC.  After graduating, she followed that with a six-week archival management course at the Public Archives of Canada.  In 1970 she was appointed the first University Archivist at UBC Library’s Special Collections Division.  Alone in this position for many years, Laurenda worked to bring some order to the institution’s historical records.  She organized those materials which had already accumulated in Special Collections, and arranged for the acquisition of additional  inactive administrative records from the various University departments, as well as private papers from prominent faculty, staff, and alumni.  By the time she retired in 1988 with the honorary title “University Archivist Emerita”, Laurenda had established the University Archives on firm foundations.

During her career at UBC Laurenda served for several years on the Faculty Association executive, and on the University Senate.  She also served a one-year term as president of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C.

After her retirement Laurenda continued with her volunteer work, in particular her continuing involvement with University Hill United Church.  She enjoyed writing, and in her eighties began recording her life stories with the Brock Hall Life Writers Group.  In 2016 these stories were collected in her published memoir, Royal Blood.

Roy Daniells died in 1978.  Laurenda is survived by her two daughters, and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements to be announced.

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