UBC Library’s B.C. Historical newspaper archives, part of the university’s publicly-accessible Open Collections, is playing a critical role in heritage research in Vancouver.

“The archive is such an amazing and unique resource,” says Patrick Gunn, Board of Directors at Heritage Vancouver Society, “It is key in our ongoing built heritage research, across multiple areas.”

One of the ways the archive is being used is to help provide more fulsome information for Heritage Vancouver’s online building permits database that contains over 40,000 building permits from January 1, 1929 when the municipalities of Vancouver, South Vancouver and Point Grey were amalgamated into what we now know as modern-day Vancouver.

The searchable database, that was created by painstakingly transcribing hand-written city ledgers found within the City of Vancouver archives allows for users to find key information about particular buildings in Vancouver. The ledgers provide some, but not all the information that would have been included in the individual permit document. Long-form building permits were issued to the applicant and a copy was made for the city; unfortunately, it was common practice to record overview information into registers, like the ledgers that have survived, then purge the full records.

It is in this respect that the B.C. Digital Newspapers Archive has been useful in filling in the gaps.

“Once the transcriptions for a given year are complete, we’ve been using a few key newspapers that luckily captured some of the building permit details which no longer exist in city records and adding these into the building permits to create a more complete building record, ” says Gunn, “Trade journals like The Daily Building Record, Vancouver Building Record and the British Columbia Record have been the most useful to us.”

The additional information allows for a much fuller picture of the story of the building, including details about the architect, owner and specifics about the structure’s dimensions and estimated cost.

An excerpt from the November 8, 1911 edition of The Vancouver Building Record detailing the extension of a building ay 110 Pender Street East.

The archive has also been helpful in providing information about buildings built before 1910 that pre-date the issuing of building permits. Newspapers like The Mount Pleasant Advocate, one of the earliest newspapers published in B.C. from 1901 to 1905, contains important information about some of the building erected in the area.

Further along in the Heritage research process, the archive is also proving to be useful in helping capture the social history and historical significance of a building. 

An excerpt from The Daily Building Record of May 29, 1912 detailing important information about the Hudson’s Bay Company Department store that would be completed in 1913 at the corner of Georgia and Granville Streets.

“Many heritage consultants use the archive when building a statement of significance,” says Gunn, referring to the document that assesses what is important about a building, how important it is and why, which establishes baseline for any potential development and informing the application for Planning Permission.

“We are so thrilled that this digital archive is having a direct impact on the Vancouver community,” says Larissa Ringham, Acting Head of Digital Initiatives, “the B.C. Historical Newspapers archive is enabling us to support and enrich the educational, cultural and economic endeavors of the people of British Columbia and communities beyond.”  

Explore the B.C. Historical newspaper archive and access 129 years of B.C.’s news.

 

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