DHSI – the Digital Humanities Summer Institute – is a training program held every summer at the University of Victoria. Delivered over a week, each course is an intensive series of classes interspersed with colloquiums, unconferences, and other community-based events, and provides an ideal environment for influencing teaching, research, dissemination, creation, and preservation in different disciplines. Course offerings have historically included such topics as text analysis, data visualization, digital pedagogy, programming, topic modelling, and more.

We are pleased to confirm that UBC Library is continuing as a sponsoring partner of DHSI thanks to the support of University Librarian Susan Parker. As part of this sponsorship, the Library provides free registration – normally $950 with the early bird rate, or $1,250 at full cost – for five library employees to attend a course at DSHI 2020, held on June 1-5 or 8-12.

If you would like to be considered for one of these sponsored spots, please submit the following to digital.initiatives@ubc.ca by Tuesday, November 12th:

  • A short statement of interest (300 words max)
  • Your preferred course(s)
  • Source(s) of funding you would use to cover the other costs of attending DHSI (travel, accommodation, incidentals)
  • If you have attended DHSI in the past on UBC Library-sponsored spot: the years you attended and the courses you completed

Any UBC Library staff member with an interest in Digital Humanities is invited to apply. We hope to notify successful applicants by November 19th.

NOTE: Participants from sponsoring institutions can also attend DHSI at a reduced rate of $650, using a discount code. If you are planning to attend DHSI next year and are interested in registering at this discounted rate, please contact Larissa Ringham (larissa.ringham@ubc.ca) for the code *before you register*, as the discount cannot be applied retroactively. Scholarships are also available by applying to DHSI directly.

We look forward to seeing your applications! Please let us know if you have any questions.

The UBC Archives Photograph Collection has over 40,000 photographic images dating from the founding of UBC to the present day. They present a visual record of UBC’s growth and development, the evolution of student life, and campus events over most of the past century. In a previous blog post, Now & Then, we showed how one of the oldest buildings on campus, the Irving K Barber (IKB) Learning Centre has changed during the past decades. In this post, we will focus on Main Mall.

Being in the centre of UBC Grey Point campus, Main Mall is a historic pedestrian axis. Looking north, the landscape of the mountains hasn’t changed much. But the red oaks, the earliest of which were planted in the 1920s, have grown a lot!

UBC 72.1/32, View of Main Mall looking north, [1939]

UBC 164.1/11, Looking north along Main Mall, 1955

UBC 175.1/28b, View north on Main Mall toward flag pole, 2002

The Main Library, now the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, was first built in 1923. In 2002, the library began the process of a major renovation. After the refurbishment, both wings and the majority of the interior were completely redone, but the west entrance hall remained much the same.

UBC 1.1/2664, Main Library from the north end of Main Mall, [between 1960 and 1969]








Left: UBC 1.1/2355, Entrance hall, Main Library, [1960]. Right: The west entrance of Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, October 2019.














Left: UBC 1.1/1729, Main Library entrance, [1932]. Right: The west entrance of Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, October 2019.

The view of Main Mall from the west entrance of IKB Learning Centre looks quite different from 50 years ago. These two photos were taken in the same place, one in 1943, and the other last week. In the right photo, the Ladner Clock Tower was built in 1968, Walter C. Koerner Library in 1996, and the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre in 2018.

Left: UBC 1.1/1073, Reflection pool and lawns in front of Main Library, 1943. Right: In front of Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, October 2019.

Can you tell where this building is? It’s now right behind the Koerner Library. It was called the Arts Building until 1960, then the Mathematics Building.

UBC 1.1/703, Arts building and Main Mall, 1936

Is this side more familiar?

Miguel Garcia / UBC Mathematics Building, 2013

Did you know there was a bus stop on Main Mall? It was on the west side of Main Mall across from the Science Building (now the Chemistry Building), to the south of Mathematics Annex, as shown in the photo below.

UBC 1.1/309, Main Mall looking northwest from Science building, Oct 4, 1937

In 1955-56, a long, low building including the Bus Stop Café and the old University Bookstore was built in the location of the bus stop.

UBC 44.1/193-1, Bus Stop coffee shop, 1987

UBC 44.1/193-3, Bus Stop coffee shop, 1987

UBC 41.1/1699-2, Bookstore interior view, 1976

According to the University Archives of Buildings & Grounds, the old Bookstore and Bus Stop Café were torn down in 1991 to make space for the David Lam Management Research Centre.

This is how this area looks like now.

UBC 128.1/143, David Lam Management Research Centre, 1999

To read more about the Bus Stop Café, please check out this post.

In the south end of Main Mall, there is the Old Barn Community Centre. There was actually a horse barn on the same spot. According to UBC Archives, the Old Horse Barn was erected in 1920. In 2003, the barn was deemed structurally unsafe and beyond restoration, and then rebuilt. The building now functions as a community centre providing a social space for university residents and students, including a coffee shop, meeting rooms, and a number of social spaces.

UBC 1.1/1358, Horse barn, [between 1920 and 1939]

UBC 175.1/19b, Old barn, 2002


Alex Ristea / The Old Barn, 2009

We hope you enjoyed the blog post. To find out more historical photographs about the university, please explore the UBC Archives Photograph Collection!

This two-part series introduce the collection of History of Nursing in Pacific Canada. You can view Part 1 here. In previous blog posts, we profiled Ethel Johns Fonds, and Laura Holland Fonds.

Lyle Creelman Fonds

Lyle Creelman (1908-2007) was the Chief Nursing Officer of the World Health Organization from 1954–1968. She established national and international standards for accomplishments in the field of nursing. She also co-authored the Baillie-Creelman Report, which was a classic textbook for nurses. In 1971, she was awarded the Order of Canada.

UBC 117.1/66, Lyle Creelman portrait, [1945]

This fonds includes correspondences, journals, reports, publications, and speeches written by Creelman.

Here is a page from Creelman’s diary when she was in Hamilton, Ontario in 1948. It appears to be her full personal record of the Baillie-Creelman Survey.

[1948-1949 Diary Hamilton Ontario]

Infant Feeders Collection

In an earlier post, we talked about infant feeding devices such as feeding bottles and food pushers, which may strike the material historians’ fancy.

The oldest item within all these artifacts is a pap boat that dates back to 1741. A pap boat is a small open-topped vessel with extended pouring lips to feed “pap” to infants, children, and invalids. Pap is a mixture of bread, flour, and water.

[Pewter pap boat], 1741

History of Nursing

There are 18 items in this collection, including annual reports and proceedings of convention of the British Columbia Hospitals’ Association, from 1918-1931, Public health nurses’ bulletins that were published in 1930s, and a pamphlet on nursing questions.

Public health nurses’ bulletin, vol.2, no.1, May 31, 1933

Vancouver Medical Association

This collection contains 363 issues of The Vancouver Medical Association Bulletin from 1924-1955. The Vancouver Medical Association Bulletin was published by the Vancouver Medical Association (VMA) for 34 years, from October 1924 until January 1959.

In 1957, as the advertising income of the journal had begun to decline, the VMA and the British Columbia Medical Association made an agreement to restructure the journal with the BCMA paying to sustain the publication. The new title of the journal was British Columbia Medical Journal and was first released in January 1959.

The Vancouver Medical Association Bulletin: October, 1924.

If you are a nursing and health history buff, there’s something you won’t want to miss, the collection of History of Nursing in Pacific Canada. This two-part series will explore some highlights of the collection.

The History of Nursing in Pacific Canada digital collection was developed by the UBC Library, together with the UBC School of Nursing Consortium for Historical Inquiry in Nursing and Health Care and the BC History of Nursing Society.  In the collection are more than 600 items, including medicine periodicals, books, annual reports, correspondences, video lectures, and images of artifacts. It focuses on local materials (British Columbia and Yukon) held by Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives at the UBC Library, with items represented from a number of their collections.

Ethel Johns Fonds

Ethel Johns (1879-1967) was the founding director of the UBC School of Nursing. She was named a person of national historic significance in 2015.

Johns fought to establish university education and higher standards for nurses in Canada and internationally. She founded a university nursing program at UBC in 1919, the first such program of its kind in Canada and the British Empire.

UBC 82.1/2, Ethel Johns, [1933]

The Ethel Johns fonds includes correspondence, reports, minutes, notes, photographs, drafts of Johns’ unfinished autobiography and related papers, and manuscripts of a considerable number of her articles and speeches.

[Letters, Ethel Johns to Eileen C. Flanagan, [1948-1957]

Laura Holland Fonds

Laura Holland (1883-1956) was both a nurse and a social worker and played an active leadership role in both professions. She served in the Canadian Army Medical Corps from 1915-1919 and was awarded the Royal Red Cross. In 1927 she moved to British Columbia to reorganize and coordinate the Vancouver Children’s Aid Society. In the early 1930s, Holland lectured in UBC’s social work program and nursing program. In 1938, she was appointed Advisor to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and later took an active role in the development of the Placement Service and Labour Relations Program of RNABC.

UBC 123.1/10, Laura Holland, [unknown]

The fonds mainly contains correspondences and diaries. There is a large volume of letters written by Holland to her mother from June 1915 to July 1917, when she served in active theatres of war in France and Greece.

[Letter from Laura Holland to her mother], 1916-05-12

The Historical Children’s Literature Collection contains more than 80 images of variations on classic children’s tales. Made possible by a UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) grant, this collection is a collaboration with the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, UBC’s iSchool, and the Department of English Language and Literatures.

Particularly strong in chapbooks and early Canadian content, most of the selected books come from the Arkley Collection of Early and Historical Children’s Literature. The Arkley Collection, donated in 1976 by Stan T. Arkley, a member of UBC’s class of 1925, and his wife, Rose, comprises more than 12,000 Canadian, British, and American children’s books, serials, and manuscripts. The digitized collection contains only a small portion of the entire Arkley Collection, with potential for future growth. Among the chapbooks — small booklets containing stories or ballads aimed at the popular market and sold on the street by itinerant pedlars or “chapmen”— are a number of stories that many readers will recognize.

The first of these two versions of the Cinderella tale includes an “historical description of the cat”, for anyone who is otherwise unfamiliar with such exotic creatures.

The history of Cinderella, [1840]

Adventures of the beautiful little maid Cinderilla; or, the history of a glass slipper : to which is added, an historical description of the cat, [1825?]
















Also represented are somewhat lesser-known stories – such as this cautionary tale on the dangers of trying to please everyone …

Old man and his ass, [1840]

… and this collection of anecdotes where haggis regrettably appears but once.

The Scotch Haggis; a selection of choice bon mots, Irish blunders, repartees, anecdotes, &c, [between 1840 and 1857?]

In addition to children’s tales, the collection also contains instructional materials such as this 1885 speller.

Old aunt Elspa’s spelling, [1885]

To view these items and other treasures in the collection, please visit the Historical Children’s Literature Collection.

Autumn is the spawning season in B.C. when salmon fight their way upstream as they complete their final journey. On Campbell River in Vancouver Island or Capilano River in North Vancouver, you’ll be sure to spot salmon leaping their way back home. For this post, we gathered historical images related to salmon in B.C. from our Open Collections, hoping to provide you a taste of these incredible creatures.

The Chung Collection contains books, archival documents, artifacts and photographs about the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, early British Columbian history, and immigration and settlement in BC. This picture in the book By track and trail: a journey through Canada from the Chung Collection illustrates a run of salmon in the Fraser River at North Bend, B.C.

By track and trail: a journey through Canada, 1891, p. 392

As the author and illustrator Edward Roper explained:

The illustration of this scene is not an atom exaggerated, except that I have made the fish more visible, but they were even closer packed in the water than I have shown.

Let’s take a close look. This photo from Fisherman Publishing Society Collection shows how packed they can be!

Salmon run, 1977

This postcard from Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs captures salmon jumping over water.

Salmon leaping the falls, [between 1900 and 1930?]

Salmon watching and fishing are fun activities in many places in B.C. A lot of pamphlets in the Chung Collection list it as one of the best things to do in B.C. This photo is from a pamphlet related to trips to Vancouver Island aboard Princess ships. Look how big the fish can be!

Vancouver Island, an island of enchantment, 1922, p. 27

Another pamphlet that promotes salmon fishing in Victoria, B.C.

Victoria, 1930, p. 19

This photo, from a Canadian Pacific Railway pamphlet, shows fish ladders on the Fraser River. The ladders permit salmon to make their way upstream to spawn in the fresh waters where they were born.

By train… through the Canadian Rockies, [1950?], p. 21

In this map of Vancouver Island, you can even find an “S” in the legend which stands for salmon fishing.

Map of Vancouver Island, [between 1940 and 1951?], p. 8

Finally, here’s a photo depicting Chinese workers unloading salmon at Butterfield and Mackie Cannery, New Westminster, B.C.

Unloading salmon at a cannery, [between 1910 and 1919?]

We are excited to present the Digitization Centre Impact and Activity Report for 2018-2019! This report highlights key projects, featured collections, partnerships, and user engagement trends for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

In 2018-2019, more than 190,000 users accessed our digitized items, corresponding to approximately 7.0% of the visitors to the entire UBC Library website.

New addition to our digital collections included:

  • Historical Children’s Literature Collection: Materials from RBSC’s historical children’s literature holdings, including the Arkley Collection of Early and Historical Children’s Literature. The collection is particularly strong in chapbooks and early Canadian content.
  • Association of University and College Employees (AUCE) fonds: 3,100 digital objects totaling more than 13,000 pages, related to labour studies, women’s studies, and the history of trade unions in the province have been digitized to date.
  • Colin Slim Stravinsky Collection: A selection of Igor Stravinsky’s (1882-1971) letters, scores and memorabilia from 1911 to 2018.
  • BC Sessional Papers: An annual collection of selected papers tabled in the Legislative Council of British Columbia and the Legislative Assembly. 4,185 items dating from 1876 to 1982 are now available in Open Collections.

[Quotation from Symphonie de Psaumes], 1937 (H. Colin Slim Stravinsky Collection)

Other highlights detailed in the report:
  • Improvements in access and user experience.
  • Our ongoing partnerships.
  • Updates on our web archiving efforts and new collections.
  • New and exciting ways that our collections are being used.
  • New workflows and automation tools for digital preservation.

Make sure to check out the report for the details on these topics!

As our previous posts described, One Hundred Poets (Hyakunin isshu, hereafter HNIS) is the most famous Waka (Japanese poem) anthology edited by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241). Did you know that HNIS was an important educational resource for Japanese women in the late Edo period (1700s-1867)? Our digitized collection has 24 books known to be used for women’s education from the 18th and 19th centuries. These publications not only contain the poems from HNIS but also explain the skills Japanese women were expected to acquire. This post shows some sample items and explores how women in Edo-period Japan were educated using HNIS.

Background: Women’s Education in Edo-period Japan

In pre-modern Japan, education was primarily for the upper-class men who serve the government as samurais.[i] The situation had gradually changed in the late 17th century to mid 18th century, and many “books for women” (josho/nyosho 女書) started to be published to educate and prepare “women for their roles within the patriarchal family system”[ii]. Their learning contents contained home management, self-discipline, courtesy or propriety, and the child rearing. It was strongly influenced by Confucianism from China, which stresses male dominance, integrity and righteousness[iii] [iv].

For instance, one of our digitized items, Onna daigaku takara-bako,女大學寶箱 ([1790]) teaches the moral need for total subordination of women to the needs of the husband and family. It lists 19 expectations for women, such as:

“A woman must ever be on the alert, and keep a strict watch over her conduct. In the morning she must rise early, and at night go late to rest. Instead of sleeping in the middle of the day, she must be intent on the duties of her household, and must not weary of weaving, sewing, and spinning. Of tea and wine she must not drink over-much, nor must she feed her eyes and ears with theatrical performances, ditties, and ballads. To temples (whether Shinto or Buddhist) and other like places, where there is a great concourse of people, she should go but sparingly till she has reached the age of forty.” (Translation by Harper’s Bazaar [v])

(一、女は常に心遣いして、其の身を堅倶謹み護るべし。朝は早く起き、夜は遅く寝ね、昼はいねずして、いえの内の事に心を用い、織り・縫い・績み・緝ぎ、怠るべからず。亦茶・酒など多く呑むべからず。歌舞妓・小歌・浄るりなどの淫れたる事を、見聴くべからず。宮・寺など都ての人のおおくあつまる処へ、四十歳より内は余りに行くべからず。pp.68-71, the pages below)[vi]

Onna daigaku takara-bako, [1790].

In addition to the Confucian values, three other categories were included in female education books:

  1. Details about everyday life (e.g., clothing, food, marriage, and childbirth),
  2. Arts (e.g., flower arrangement, tea ceremony, music, calligraphy), and
  3. Literature.

Literature education focused on reading and understanding waka in 21 imperial anthologies (Nijūichidaishū, chokusen wakashū,二十一代集,勅撰和歌集).[vii] It was different from what male children learned, such as classical Chinese texts. [viii]


How was the One Hundred Poets (Hyakunin Isshu) implemented in women’s education?

HNIS consists of 100 poems originally contained in 10 imperial anthologies, which is why they were used for female’s literature education. The following pages in [Jokyō banpō zensho azuma kagami] contain each poet’s profile (the upper row), the description of the poem with a picture (the middle row), and the poem with a poet’s portrait (the lower row).

[Jokyō banpō zensho azuma kagami], [1829].

HNIS books contain not only the HNIS poems but also useful tips for women’s lifestyles, such as etiquette, other classical literature, and practical information.[ix] Many books split a page into a couple of sections and depict life hacks in the upper row and the HNIS poems in the lower row. It sometimes uses even one page for picturing general knowledge that is unrelated to HNIS.

For example, in Waka-tsuru hyakunin isshu (稚鶴百人弌首, 1861), the left page explains the origin of mirrors with a picture of women using it. The upper row of the right page depicts the Three Gods of Poetry (Waka sanjin, 和歌三神) namely Sumiyoshi, Tamatsushima, and Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (from left). The lower row shows the first two poems of HNIS by the Emperor Tenji (天智天皇) and the Emperor Jito (持統天皇) (from left).

In addition to HNIS poems, the following pages also introduces other important figures of Japanese literature. The upper row depicts the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry (Sanjyu Rokkasen; 三十六歌仙), a group of 36 well-known Japanese poets from 600-1100s. The lower row shows four HNIS poems (From left: Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (柿本人麻呂), Yamabe no Akahito (山部赤人), Sarumaru no Taifu (猿丸大夫), Chunagon no Yakamochi (中納言家持)):

Let’s take a look at other women’s manners depicted in the upper sections. The image below provides a model for calligraphy by depicting a young girl practicing[x]:

Ogura hyakunin isshu, [Late Tokugawa Period].

The section below explains Ogasawara-ryū orikata (小笠原流折形),the formal way of folding a paper for gift wrapping and decorating.

Banpō hyakunin isshu, [Late Tokugawa period?].

You can also find sewing patterns of kimono:

Below is the list of different names used for seasons and months. It includes 8 ways for calling each season (spring, summer, fall, winter) and 13 names for each month (From left upside corner: spring, fall, summer, winter, January, April, February, May, March, June):

Ogura hyakunin isshu, [Late Tokugawa period].

As you can see, HNIS books tell us how Japanese women were educated and became literate, and what they learned in the 18th and 19th centuries. Please find more digitized books from our One Hundred Poets Collection.


See also

Past Digitizer’s Blog posts:

Subject in Open Collections

Professor Joshua Mostow, UBC Department of Asian Studies (Owner of the personal collection)

[i] Bakumatsu-ki no kyoiku. Retrieved from http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/hakusho/html/others/detail/1317577.htm

[ii] Ivanova, G. (2016). Re0gendering a classic: “The Pillow Book” for early modern female readers. Japanese Langauge and Literature, 50(1), 105-154. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/24891981

[iii] Kincard, C. (2016, Jun). Gender expectations of Edo period Japan. Retrieved from https://www.japanpowered.com/japan-culture/gender-expectations-of-edo-period-japan

[iv] Sugihara, Y. & Katsurada, E. (2000). Gender-role personality traits in Japanese culture. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 309-318. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb00213.x

[v] “The greater learning for women.”. (1893, Nov 11). Harper’s Bazaar (1867-1912), 26, 930.

[vi] Onna daigaku (2017, Nov.). Retrieved from https://francois-vidit.com/blog/ja/onnadaigaku

[vii] Ivanova, G. (2016). Re0gendering a classic: “The Pillow Book” for early modern female readers. Japanese Langauge and Literature, 50(1), 105-154. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/24891981

[viii] Hmeljak Sangawa, K. (2017). Confucian learning and literacy in Japan’s schools of the Edo period. Asian Studies, 5(2), 153-166. doi: 10.4312/as.2017.5.2.153-166

[ix] Mostow, J. S. (1996). Pictures of the heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in word and image. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

[x] Mostow, J. S. (1996). Pictures of the heart: The Hyakunin Isshu in word and image. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.


In our digital project workflow, we first evaluate copyright concerns for the submitted project proposal. Even if the collection contains historically important items to be digitized and preserved, we cannot approve the project if there are copyright restrictions or issues. This post will briefly summarize what you need to know about copyright and digitization. For more detailed information about copyright, please visit Copyright at UBC (Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office).

What is Copyright? Why do we have to care about it in digitization projects?

According to Copyright at UBC, “Copyright is the sole and exclusive right of a copyright owner to produce, reproduce, perform, publish, adapt, translate and telecommunicate a work, and to control the circumstances in which others may do any of these things. Copyright owners grant permission to others through what are legally referred to as licenses.” In the digitization context, we need to ensure the item is in the public domain or we obtain permission in order (1) to make digital copies of the items and (2) to disseminate them[i]. Making digital copies can be considered as “reproducing” the original items, and disseminating as “publishing”.

Our Digital Collection Development Policy of the UBC Library defines the collection review criteria and questions for rights issues as follows:

  1. Does the Library hold copyright for the material to be digitized?
  2. Does the Library have written documentation from the rights owner allowing it to hold a digital copy of the material?
  3. Does the Library require any other permission prior to embarking on the project?


As we state in our Project Planning Toolkit, the answers to any of the following questions should be “yes” when digitizing an item and publishing it in Open Collections:

  • Is the material in the public domain?
  • Does UBC hold the copyright to the material?
  • Will the copyright holder give permission to digitize the material?


The following collections are examples of how we have dealt with copyright:

Public Domain: Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

The original items in the Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books were published between 1245 and 1680. All of the items are out of copyright, and UBC owns the materials in their entirety. Therefore, it could be digitized without worrying about copyright infringement.

[Catholicon], 1460.

Americae sive novi orbis, nova description, 1572.


Permission from Copyright holder: BC Sessional Papers[ii]

The items in the BC Sessional Papers collection are protected under parliamentary privilege, which applies to the materials printed by the Legislative Library of British Columbia (LLBC). Parliamentary privilege extended to printed parliamentary publications does not expire. In other words, intellectual property rights are held in perpetuity by Parliament.

In order to make the digital copies of the Sessional Papers and upload to Open Collections, we consulted with the Legislative Assembly Law Clerk and other copyright experts. Both parties signed a non-exclusive digitization and distribution agreement (Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and the University of British Columbia Library Digital Initiatives). By this agreement, the UBC Library has right to preserve and disseminate the Sessional Paper, and add the digitized materials to the UBC Library collections.


British Columbia. Legislative Assembly, [1929]. REPORT OF LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD, 1927-28.


If interested in completing a project with us, please consider copyright issues prior to submitting a proposal.


[i] Gertz, J. (2007) 6.6 Preservation and selection for digitization. Northeast Document Center. Available at https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/6.-reformatting/6.6-preservation-and-selection-for-digitization Cited in Balogun, T. (2018). The nexus between digitization, preservation and access in the context of selection of materials for archives. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-journal), 1893. Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/1893


[ii] Carr-Harris, M., Curry, G., Graebner, C., Paterson, S., & Rollins, C. (2011). British Columbia Government Publications Digitization Project: Proof of Concept. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/b009/ade13b914c3ead37564ead628382b05b78fd.pdf

Ever since the first Japanese immigrants arrived in Canada in the late 19th century, Japanese Canadians have created their communities in their settlement areas. They came to a new country to find employment and to improve their economic situation. In Open Collections, we have many resources about the history and lives of Japanese Canadians. This post will introduce some of our digitized items and explore four towns where Japanese Canadians resided before relocation.

Why did Japanese people migrate to Canada in early 1900s?

Our digitized book from the Chung Collection, Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth (1940) explains the background of Japanese migration. Japan ended its seclusion policy and started to establish treaties with other countries in 1854. In 1884, the Japanese government allowed its laboring-class citizens to emigrate abroad, which resulted in big waves of Japanese immigration to Canada. Having little English-language ability, most of the immigrants engaged in the primary industries which required small degree of training, such as fishing, lumbering, mining, and railroading.

Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth, 1940.


Vancouver, BC: Powell St.

Many of the immigrants from Shiga, Japan, who experienced flooding, resided in the Vancouver area. They initially found employment at the Hastings Mill area, along the south shores of Burrard Inlet, and gradually started their business in the Powell Street area (Japantown, Nihonmachi, Paueru Gai, パウエル街) in today’s Downtown Eastside. Despite enduring the race riots in 1907, the community itself continued to grow.

Building damaged during Vancouver riot of 1907 – 431 Powell Street, $2, 1907.


View of people on Powell Street, Vancouver, 1941.


Steveston, BC

The first Japanese arrived at Steveston was known to be Gihei Kuno(工野儀兵衛). People from his hometown, Mio district in Wakayama, Japan had made their livings by fishing and farming, but they had faced severe economic hardship in the late 19th century. On his first visit to Steveston, he was fascinated by the amount of salmon in Fraser river, and returned back to Japan to urge people to go to Canada to fish. As a result, Steveston became the second largest Japanese-Canadian settlement area before the Second World War. His recruitment also made Mio district the largest single sources of Japanese emigrants to Canada.

A digitized book from the Chung Collection, Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth (1940), notes that the Japanese population in the area was estimated to be around 4,500 in 1900.

Group photograph at Japanese Language School, Steveston, 1924.


Woodfibre, BC

Woodfibre was a small company town operating a pulp mill between early 1900s and 2006. According to Takeo Ujo Nakano’s memoir, Within the barbed wire fence : a Japanese man’s account of his internment in Canada (1980), half of the population of Woodfibre was Japanese, and majority of them were single men. Every month, the Japanese employees were assigned to a pulp-loading duty when a Japanese freighter docked at the port. They gathered and listened to the latest news about their home country.

The digitized book Japanese contribution to Canada, a summary of the role played by the Japanese in the development of Canadian commonwealth (1940) also describes Woodfibre as one of the large centres where Japanese formed a large portion of the employment population:

The Japanese workers in Woodfibre are practically all employees of B. C. Pulp and Paper Company, Limited. They first found their way to this town during the War. In 1918, 59 were working in the mills; in 1920, 100; by 1930, the total number of Japanese employed was 230; but in 1934 it had decreased to 157. Now, 200 are working. (pp.16)

The book also argues that the amount of wages for Japanese workers were lower than the Whites in the lumber, paper and pulp industries. However, it was still seven times higher than the average wage in Japan, which motivated them to continue working there and send money to their home.

Class photograph taken at Woodfibre, B.C.


Port Alberni, BC

Port Alberni on Vancouver Island had a small settlement of Japanese Canadians. They engaged in the logging and lumber operation at the McLean Mill. McLean Mill/Banbridge School was built in 1929 served as a community center, and half of the students were Japanese Canadians. However, due to the Japanese relocation, the school closed permanently in 1942.

View of Bloedel Steward Sawmill, Port Alberni, 1933.


If you are interested in other Japantowns, Japanese-Canadian’s lifestyle before and after their relocation, and Canadian attitudes towards Japanese immigrants, the following are the examples of helpful historical resources in Open Collections:


Books and Documents

Subject Headings



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