Past Purrrrfect: Cats in the Collection 

(special supplemental exhibit

In the Doghouse: Historic Hounds)

Rare Books and Special Collections

Jan. 6 — Feb. 29, 2020

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted” – Colette

Have you heard the mews?! Libraries and archives have always been home to our feline friends, and Rare Books and Special Collections at the UBC Library is no exception. We don’t have a resident kitty patrolling our reference room, vault or stacks, but we do have numerous cats “living” in our collections. Proving our predecessors were just as obsessed with collecting cat related archival and rare published materials as we are, Past Purrrfect highlights materials from the 19th to the mid-20th centuries featuring a bevy of furry felines. In this exhibit you will find kitties playing, sleeping, prancing, purring, and being naughty. From our diverse holdings, items on exhibit range from photographs and family albums, children’s literature, correspondence from noteworthy individuals, pop-up books, bookplates, and artist editions.

Archival Materials

Our archival records are broad in scope, and include correspondence from well-known historical figures, as well as celebrated authors. RBSC hold 89 letters written by Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, with many focused on cats. She writes about her own pet Mr. Muff, and about finding homes for them among her correspondents. Writing to her friend Mary Mohl on January 20th, 1877, Nightingale writes:

Dearest Madame Mohl This is solely about cats: The Tom kitten with a ‘pretty face’, which you said you would like (your own descendant) when you were here has been scrupulously set apart for you. He has now, I think, the longest hair I ever saw: is most affectionate & very clean: I was in hopes that you would have let me know any opportunity by which he could have been sent to you at Paris: (as you did not summon him to go by with yourself). Could you let me know whether you still wish to have him: his name is Biz: & whether there will soon be a safe opportunity of someone going to Paris who would carefully take him to you: I should think he would be greatly admired even in Paris: {If he stops here, he {will be stolen or lost: dearest friend, no more to-day: ever your old Flo.

Other letters referencing cats are written by Malcolm Lowry, Ethel Wison, and Charles Darwin. Lowry, best known for his novel Under the Volcano, elaborated in a postscript in a June 20, 1950 letter to fellow author Christopher Isherwood, about issues with some troublesome felines:

P.S. I begun to write this letter originally, returning the complement (which I appreciate) in my own handwriting, such as it is — though I have no pen that works — taking advantage of this to write outside. But a cat spilt coconut oil on it. Then another cat spilt beer on it. Finally it blew into the sea, Retrieved thence it came somewhat to pieces and was, besides, a bit illegible. So I gave in, temporarily, to the machine age.

Originals of the above correspondence, along with letters by Darwin and Wilson on a feline theme, are on display as part of the Past Purrrfect exhibit.

Also in the exhibit, are photographs of cats selected from the Uno Langmann Collection of BC photographs, Wallace and Madeleine Chung Collection, Icelandic Archives of British Columbia, and other photographic holdings. These images show that from the early days of photography cats have been worthy subjects to record for posterity, either captured on their own, or with their human companions. These images also demonstrate that cats are integral and loved members of the families who give them shelter, whether that is a comfortable home or somewhere less traditional.


Past Purrrfect contains volumes from our book collections, including examples from our vast children’s literature holdings and the Alice 100 collection celebrating 100 years since the original publication of Alice in Wonderland in 1865. The collection was donated to the UBC Library in 1965 by the graduating class of 1925 to mark their 40th anniversary, and contains numerous variations of the iconic Cheshire Cat among its illustrations. Also shown are classic stories such as Puss in Boots and the Tale of Tom Kitten, along with lost favourites that are deserving of renewed interest. One discovery in researching this exhibit is the Cats Tea Party. Listed in our catalogue without any attributions, research revealed that its illustrator is Harrison Weir. Weir was a prolific author and illustrator active in the late 19th Century known for his books about nature, and particularly for his drawings of cats. Weir is also referred to as the “Father of the Cat Fancy” and organized the first cat show at the Crystal Palace in London in 1871.

The Cats Tea Party Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


A cat capturing a croquet ball, 1926, by Louis Wane. Arkley_25_0009.

The Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection consists of over 2,400 items depicting the game of croquet (and earlier pastimes of its type) from the 18th century to the present. Within the collection are numerous examples of animals enjoying this most Victorian of pursuits, particularly cats whose cunning sportsmanship is exceptionally suited to the game. Included in the exhibit are drawings by Louis Wane (1860-1939) one of the better-known illustrators of children’s fiction featuring cats. Wane produced numerous books and hundreds of illustrations starring large-eyed anthropomorphic cats and kittens.   Other items on display show less refined creatures (dogs) disrupting play and causing havoc.

In the Doghouse: Historic Hounds

Running concurrently with Past Purrrfect, we have devoted space for those who may be more partial to dogs, as we don’t want lovers of canines to feel left out. In the Doghouse: Historic Hounds is curated by iSchool graduate student (and RBSC Archival Assistant) James Goldie. In James’ words:

Humans and dogs have evolved alongside each other for millennia, so why should cats get all the glory here at RBSC? Many dog-related phrases and idioms have negative connotations (“dogs days,” “dog-eat-dog world,” and “sick as a dog” to name just a few), however, this part of our exhibition seeks to reclaim the notion of being in the doghouse. Here you’ll find materials celebrating our tail-wagging, four-legged friends. Though today we live in an age of doggy daycare and paw-sized winter boots, affection for dogs (and the central role they’ve played in our lives and imaginations) has changed very little in the last 150 years. Purebreds and mongrels alike are featured throughout our collection, as evidenced by this sampling of photographs, books, correspondence, and more — a veritable dog’s breakfast of archival resources we hope will delight you as only these special animals can.

Scholarly Purr-suits: cats and dogs in the library

In addition to Past Purrrfect and In the Doghouse at Rare Books and Special Collections, please also enjoy the following feline and canine themed exhibits at other branches of the UBC Library:

David Lam Library and Canaccord Learning Commons

Friends from another Species: the Business of Pets

January 13- February 14, 2020

The David Lam Library and Canaccord Learning Commons’ part in the exhibit will include highlighting aspects of the print and electronic collection, as well as search strategies that help people find information on pets and the pet related industries. This includes market research resources like Passport GMID and IBISworld, as well as resources on influencer marketing and social commerce. Engagement activities include a photo wall of a variety of pets that have captured the hearts of many through various social channels.

Curators: Irena Trebic, Kim Fama, Christina Sylka


Education Library

The Truth About Cats & Dogs: Children’s Books About the World’s Most Popular Pets

January 6 – 20, 2020

This exhibit will feature fiction and non-fiction children’s books about cats and dogs.  From well-loved classics like Old Yeller by Fred Gipson to newer graphic novels like Fluffy Strikes Back by Ashley Spires, library patrons and pet lovers of all ages will find something of interest.

Curators: Jennifer Abel, Carmen Marchal, Stephanie Marston, Elena Pederson

Specific location: Collection Spotlight area (Main Level of UBC Education Library)


Koerner Library

It’s Reading Cats and Dogs

February 1 – 28, 2020

It’s Reading Cats and Dogs will explore the literary, historical, and cultural obsession with our canine and feline companions through a selection of materials from Koerner Library’s holdings. The display will also highlight the cats and dogs of Koerner Library staff, with photos as well as book recommendations paw-sonally approved by our furry friends.

Curators: Keith Bunnell and Alexandra Alisauskas

Specific location: Koerner Library, Fireplace


Woodward Library

Wild Observations: Felidae and Canidae around the World

January 6 – February 28, 2020

A selection of books highlighting the fossil history, genetics, and conservation of wild cats and dogs from Woodward Library’s collection.

Curators: Sarah Parker and Chantal Lyons-Stevenson

Specific Location: Woodward Library, Memorial Room


All of our cats and dogs will delight and amuse you!


A special thank you to exhibit sponsor, Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association (VOKRA).

Additional thanks to exhibit supporter Catfe for providing a Nine Lives Card (9 visit admission card) for raffle. Enter at the front desk of Rare Books and Special Collections. The winner will be drawn at the end of the closing day of the exhibit, February 28th.

Both VOKRA and Catfe, among other animal rescue organizations in the lower mainland, provide a valuable community service in assisting with caring for, and finding forever homes for the many cats in their custody. If considering a pet there are many wonderful rescue animals waiting for homes.

Please adopt, don’t shop!

Thank you also to Library staff and friends who helped make this exhibit possible: Jacky Lai (invaluable curatorial assistance and exhibit support), James Goldie (Curator of Dogs), Barbara Towell, Anne Lama, Hannah McKendry, Chelsea Shriver, Weiyan Yan, Hiller Goodspeed, Claire Williams, Felicia de la Parra, Matt Patton, Michelle Blackwell, Elissa Wong, Kristy Woodcock, and Katherine Kalsbeek.

– Krisztina Laszlo, Curator of Cats and RBSC Archivist


Past Purrrfect, which is free and open to the public, will be on display in the Rare Books and Special Collections reading room. The RBSC reading room is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

Visit the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre on Wednesday, January 8th to meet John Fluevog.

As part of the exhibition “50 Years of Sole: A History of Fluevog: Honouring a Vancouver Icon,” Canadian shoe designer and Fluevog’s founder John Fluevog will be at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to view the exhibit and meet with the Library and campus community. Copies of John Fluevog’s new book will be available for purchase.

Learn more about the exhibit

Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2020
Time: 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Location: Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, Level 2


This project is part of UBC Library’s strategic direction to engage with communities.

Learn more about our Strategic Framework.

“Life’s too short to wear boring shoes.” — John Fluevog

The David Lam Management Research Library and Canaccord Learning Commons, Rare Books and Special Collections, and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre at UBC Library are pleased to present “50 Years of Sole: A History of Fluevog: Honouring a Vancouver Icon,” which is on display in David Lam Library from November 20 to December 24, 2019 and continues in the New Year in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre through January 13, 2020.

The exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of Vancouver-based John Fluevog Shoes, and the publication of a new book, Fluevog: 50 Years of Unique Soles for Unique Souls. John Fluevog is a celebrated Canadian shoe designer known for his witty and unconventional style, as well as the uplifting messages that he includes on every pair of shoes. His designs are among the most distinctive footwear of the last fifty years.

Darren Dahl, Senior Associate Dean, Faculty at the UBC Sauder School of Business, Director of the Robert H. Lee Graduate School and Professor in the Marketing and Behavioural Sciences Division, attests to Fluevog’s significance as both a business and a cultural treasure, affirming that “Fluevog put Vancouver on the map for innovative and progressive shoe design.”

John Fluevog’s work in shoe design and business has been a winding journey with ups and downs. His career began in Gastown, where the Vancouver flagship store is located today, when Fluevog partnered with Peter Fox in 1970. The partnership, known as Fox and Fluevog, lasted a decade and saw the opening of multiple stores before an amicable split. The split marked the birth of “John Fluevog Shoes” with more store openings in Seattle, Boston, and Toronto. Fluevogs broke into the mainstream in the 1990s when they were worn by both Madonna in the film Truth or Dare and by Lady Miss Kier from the band Deee-lite. To keep up with demand, John opened up stores in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. Today, Fluevog has 27 stores in the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia. Throughout his career, Fluevog has woven his love of cars, his focus on community and culture, and design and sustainability into his craft and stores.

The Mini Gorgeous is UBC Library’s favourite Fluevog shoe, as voted on by Library personnel in an online poll.

The exhibition hosted within the David Lam Library and Canaccord Learning Commons highlights how John Fluevog has successfully built a business, a brand, and a community over the course of 50 years. Just as Fluevog values its customers as collaborators, locating the display in a vibrant, learner-centred space allows students to experience directly Fluevog’s collaborative, creative, and inspiring approach to business.

The display on level 2 of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre also features original multimedia illustrations from Vancouver artist Robert Chaplin’s The Elves & the Shoemaker, featuring charming and helpful elves making and wearing Fluevog shoes. The book is a delightfully illustrated adaptation of the Brothers Grimm original tale, inspired by the soul and soles of Fluevog shoes.

Complimenting the displays in the David Lam Library and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the Walter C. Koerner Library will host a book display starting on December 1 that delves into the “sole” of Fluevog, bringing together materials on the subjects of footwear, fashion, celebrity, subculture, and Vancouver history that influenced and were influenced by John Fluevog. The display will also feature interactive de-stressing activities that tap into Fluevog’s creativity and playfulness.

Drop-in tours of the exhibition at the David Lam Library and Canaccord Learning Commons will be offered on the following dates:

November 26: 12:00-12:30pm and 12:30-1:00pm
November 28: 12:00-12:30pm and 12:30-1:00pm

We are pleased to announce these tours during Global Entrepreneurship Week, and we will feature subsequent posts featuring short interviews with UBC Fluevloggers on UBC Library’s Small Business Accelerator:

We are also delighted to host John Fluevog for a meet and greet and book signing on Wednesday, January 8, from 12:30-2pm in the foyer of UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, level 2. Join us for this opportunity to meet John Fluevog in person, congratulate him on 50 years in the business, talk shoes, and ask him to sign your copy of: Fluevog: 50 years of Unique Soles for Unique Souls. (Copies will also be available for purchase.) The event is free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC Library is excited to announce a new public exhibition in the Chung Collection exhibition room, “Fashioning the Landscape: Women’s Interwar Sportswear at the Canadian Pacific Railway Resorts.” The exhibition has been guest curated by Klahanie Research.

Interwar CPR brochures courted elite female consumers by advertising resorts as more gender neutral spaces than day-to-day life. Images of progressive women’s sportswear, which borrowed from men’s fashion, were used to rationalize and naturalize the rugged activities of the recreational holiday landscape. Distant, isolated, outdoor locations helped to relax social codes that would have been more vigorously enforced in more formal, populated urban centres. With the removal of city clothes, women symbolically shed workplace and household inequalities and seized pleasure with an outfit for every activity. From arrival to an evening of glamour, this exhibit explores the sportswear of: golf, hiking, skiing, canoeing, swimming, and riding, worn across CPR resorts.

“Fashioning the Landscape: Women’s Interwar Sportswear at the Canadian Pacific Railway Resorts,” which is free and open to the public, will be on display in the exhibition room of the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection, in the Rare Books and Special Collections reading room. The RBSC reading room is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

The exhibit, located in the David Lam Management Research Library and Level 2 of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre runs until the end of the year.

UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, The Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society and the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop have collaborated to present an exhibition that captures the continual impact of iconic Asian Canadian Jim Wong-Chu.

Jim Wong-Chu (1945- 2017) was a well-known Asian-Canadian historian, editor, author, and poet. Born in Hong Kong, Wong-Chu came to Canada in 1953. He attended the Vancouver School of Art (Emily Carr University of Art + Design) from 1975-1981, majoring in photography and design. From 1976-1981, Wong-Chu was involved with the Vancouver Co-op Radio Program on culture and assimilation, Pender Guy Radio Program while working at the Vancouver School of Art.

Considered one of the first Asian-Canadian authors who gave voice to the Asian Communities in the times when the support for the Asian arts was difficult to obtain. Jim Wong-Chu dedicated much of his time to compile a literary anthology, “Many Mouthed Birds” to showcase the richness of Asian-Canadian literature. During 1995 and 1996 Jim Wong-Chu co-founded the Asian Canadian Performing Arts Resource (ACPAR) and became one of the founders of the Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop (ACWW) where he helped many young Asian-Canadian writers to succeed by editing and finding publishers for their works. Jim Wong-Chu along with Mishtu Banerjee, Mo-Ling Chui, Grace Eiko Thomson, and Winston Xin​ formed the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society, as an organization that endeavoured to explore the diversity of Asian Canadian life and culture and promote the discussion of relevant issues and concerns within and beyond the Asian Canadian communities.

RBSC is proud to hold both the Jim Wong-Chu fonds and books from Jim’s personal library collection.

The exhibit, Jim Wong-Chu: Iconic | Asian | Canadian, runs October 10 to November 15 on level 2 of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, located on the UBC Vancouver campus. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

Science Literacy Week (September 16-22, 2019) is an annual celebration of science in Canada, in which libraries, universities, museums, and other partners offer events and displays to highlight research and learning at our institutions.

This year focuses on the OCEAN, a perfect theme for a country that borders the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. All branches of the UBC Library on both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses will showcase items from their rich collection of ocean-related books, films, and even puppets.

Rare Books and Special Collections is delighted to feature displays of historical materials related to the ocean from the W.C. Gibson History of Science & Medicine Collection, as well as modern poetry books inspired by our world’s oceans, notably some beautiful small and fine-press limited editions featuring British Columbian and Canadian poets.

For more details about RBSC’s book displays as well as displays and activities at the other UBC Library branches, visit the UBC Library Guide to Science Literacy Week.

RBSC’s Science Literacy Week displays, which are free and open to the public, will be up in our reading room from September 16 until September 30, 2019. The RBSC reading room is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection exhibition at Rare Books and Special Collections has been open to visitors in its current location in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre since April 2008. Since then, the RBSC team has diligently tracked attendance. Earlier today, we were delighted to welcome the 10,000th and 10,001st visitors to the Chung Collection exhibition!

Over the years, the visitors to the Chung Collection have been diverse and varied, including UBC classes, visiting scholars, University staff, students and faculty, seniors groups, as well as community members from Greater Vancouver and many visitors from afar. Today’s special visitors were Ivy Ng (the 10,000th visitor) and Susanna Ng (the 10,001st visitor). Ivy and Susanna had known about the Chung Collection for some time and finally visited the exhibition to see in person some of the Collection’s many special and unique artifacts related to the Chinese community. They were thrilled to discover they were milestone visitors to the exhibition, particularly Ivy, who received a UBC Library gift bag. Given their good luck today, Ivy and Susanna said they were considering buying a lottery ticket. Like most lottery hopefuls, they have already partially spent their winnings—generously offering funds for a Chung Collection endowment if they win big.

The Chung Collection exhibition features only a small portion of the Chung Collection’s more than 25,000 items. Materials not on display can be accessed for consultation in the Rare Books and Special Collections reading room. Accumulated over 60 years by Dr. Wallace Chung, the extraordinary Chung Collection covers three main themes: early British Columbia history and exploration, the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and early immigration and settlement with a focus on the Chinese diaspora.

Stay tuned for 20,000th visitor celebrations!

UBC Library has partnered with local non-profit 2 Paycheques Away to bring an exceptional and striking photography exhibit to two library locations.

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