Greg Evans might be British Columbia’s best-known beer lover; when he’s not fulfilling his duties as municipal archivist for the Township of Esquimault, he is giving public presentations throughout the province on the history of brewing and prohibition.

His passion for beer has led him to his most ambitious project yet, a two-book series documenting the history of commercial brewing in B.C. between 1858 and 1982 for the Royal British Columbia Museum and he’s using UBC Library’s B.C. Digital newspapers archive to do it.

“The digital newspaper archive is an incredible resource,” says Evans “I wish it was around when I was writing my MA thesis years ago, it would have saved me a lot of time — I’d sit for days and days scanning through microfiche.”

Greg Evans

The digital newspaper archive has enabled Evans to tell important stories about brewing in B.C., especially those in smaller communities. “I’ve been able to plug some holes in otherwise incomplete histories. In some cases, I’ve gone from a skeletal history to something that is quite fleshed out.”

Evans’ work involves scouring the 163 newspapers currently available through the archive for any mentions of beer, brewing and pivotal figures within the industry in articles and even advertisements. 

“Prior to World War One, the world was a very different place and the advertisements reflect that, says Evans, “Some are hilarious and contain things the government would never allow you to say now, with taglines like ‘Beer that builds backbone’.”

 

The archive has also allowed Evans to analyze the enormous impact of prohibition on B.C. brewing’s history. Prohibition was not well-received in B.C.; the province was the last to adopt it in 1917 and first to repeal, and it nearly decimated the industry. “Prohibition was a huge failure in B.C., ” explains Evans, “There was significant confusion and many allegations of corruption. It was a fiasco from start to finish. When troops came home from World War I and realized they couldn’t have a beer, there were riots. The repeal in 1921 was when things really changed.”

 

The B.C. Historical Newspapers’ project manager Rob Stibravy, who is a Digital Projects Librarian in the UBC Library’s Digital Programs & Services, is thrilled that the BC newspaper archive is making the province’s history more accessible and projects like Evans’ possible. “It’s gratifying to see the archive being used to enhance projects like this one.”

Evans’ first book is expected to be released in 2018.

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

 

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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