detail of Greek epigraphic squeeze

Detail of Greek epigraphic squeeze.

In this month’s issue of LibFOCUS, we highlight British Columbia with features on two newly digitized albums from the Langmann Collection and a behind-the-scenes look at how the Library’s Digitization Centre supports unique province-wide projects.

Student Digitization Assistant displaying a TTI workstation

Evan Williamson, Student Digitization Assistant, works with a TTI workstation during a Digitization Centre tour.

About 40 Library staff were treated to behind-the-scenes tours of the Digitization Centre last week, where they learned about fascinating projects such as epigraphic squeezes and watched specialized photographic equipment in action.

Robert Stibravy began the tours with an introduction to the Centre, pointing out a myriad of images from different projects covering the walls – a small sample of the team’s digitization efforts. He noted that digitization work represents a significant UBC Library priority in terms of developing community partnerships and providing excellent learning opportunities for students. “It’s a unique experience that they’re unlikely to find elsewhere,” said Stibravy.

Tour attendees were able to see students at work with various technologies, such as a TTI photographic workstation, which contains a vacuum to flatten materials; several Atiz book-scanning machines; and a Contex sheet-fed scanner – a “gentle machine,” as Stibravy put it – that was recently used for historical land use maps.

Mimi Lam illustrated the digitization process underway for the Uno Langmann Collection, noting that this is the Library’s first project to go through the complete Archivematica lifecycle for digital preservation and archival storage. The project is one of many examples of Digitization Centre staff working in conjunction with Rare Books and Special Collections. RBSC processes and describes the physical materials, while the Digitization Centre preserves and provides public access to the digitized material.

Larissa Ringham discussed the intriguing techniques used in developing epigraphic squeezes (paper cast impressions of ancient Greek stone inscriptions) and the benefits of digitizing such items. The TLEF-funded project is a partnership with the UBC Classics Department, whose students are working on translations. “Scholars of ancient Greek used to have to learn to read these characters backwards, because the impressions created by squeezes are, of course, in reverse,” Ringham says. “Once they’re digitized, we flip the image and it’s a lot easier to study.”

Paper cast impression of ancient Greek stone impressions

Detail of an epigraphic squeeze.

 In addition to large-scale projects such as B.C. Historical Newspapers and the Chung Collection, Digitization Centre staff support efforts that may only take a few weeks – such as digitizing Faculty of Education theses to deposit in cIRcle. They are also occasionally called upon to perform digitization on demand – similar to special requests submitted for interlibrary loans.

Thank you to the Digitization Centre team for providing these informative, entertaining and excellent tours! 

Image of a fish (vermilion rockfish)

Image of a vermilion rockfish by Man Tik Chu, courtesy of the Beaty Biodiversity Museum


Thousands of “fish notebooks” that contain valuable research data are now available for online viewing around the world, thanks to a successful project between UBC Library’s Digitization Centre and the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

The collaborative effort involved the transcription of more than 11,200 records containing a raft of key environmental data on the UBC Fish Collection. This collection, the third-largest of its kind in Canada, features more than 850,000 specimens and more than 50,000 DNA and tissue samples; some of the resulting records are more than a century old.

“This digitization project means that people can now look for factors in the environment that may drive the existence and co-existence of species,” says Eric Taylor, Professor in UBC’s Department of Zoology, Director at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and its Curator of Fishes.

In the past, the fish data have been used for environmental assessments, conservation efforts, understanding the factors influencing the formation and extinction of species, and more. “Now those uses will be much easier, as all the environmental and species co-occurrence records are accessible via the Internet,” adds Taylor.

The project developed after Taylor approached the Digitization Centre with the idea to digitize the notebooks; the task took just over a year to complete.

The Digitization Centre is planning to meet soon with FishBase – a self-described “global information system on fishes” – to discuss incorporating the digital notebook records into its database. Doing so would help share UBC’s data even more extensively.

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