Photos of letter, postcard and photos

From upper left corner: photo of Yosh Nakamura (July 1942); postcard from Setsuko Fuji to Joan Gillis (May 17, 1943); letter from Yosh Nakamura to Joan Gillis (July 25 1942); photo of young woman, Setsuko Fuji; and photo of Yosh Nakamura, Jackie Takahashi and friend on a tractor.

UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections has acquired an extraordinary collection of letters that provide unique insight into the devastating effects of the Japanese Canadian internment during World War II.

The collection of 147 letters, written to donor Joan Gillis in 1942 by a group of young Japanese Canadians she met while attending Queen Elizabeth Secondary School in Surrey, talk of daily life and the challenges faced by these young people after being ordered out of the “Security Zone” on the B.C. coast, and are filled with frequent references to acute homesickness and sadness at being removed from their homes. The writers range in age from 13 to 18. Some were very close friends with Gillis, while others were casual acquaintances.

Laura Ishiguro, an historian of Canada and the British Empire at UBC, said the letters will be an important teaching tool at UBC, contributing to new and better interpretations in classroom discussions about the internment of Japanese Canadians.

“Existing narratives around the internment tend to focus on Japanese Canadian people in isolation from others, or on the ideas and actions of major government figures, with the Japanese Canadian community rendered largely faceless victims of tragedy,” said Ishiguro. “With these letters, my students and I could explore a different war-time history from the perspective of young people.”

Henry Yu, a professor in the UBC history department, said the letters provide a window into the lives of school children going through a traumatic time in B.C.’s history.

“One of the most effective ways for people to understand the devastating effects of the forcible removal of over approximately 23,000 Japanese Canadians in 1942 and their subsequent exile through the sale of their property and possessions is not in the abstract numbers that measure their monetary loss or the numbers of people dispossessed and exiled, but in the rare and raw moments when we can see the effects through the eyes of those who suffered them,” said Yu. “Letters such as those sent to Ms. Gillis from school friends are so powerful precisely because of the authentic reality that they express of school children’s experience of the trauma, shared with a trusted friend.”

Letter from Masao Ujiye to Joan Gillis, 9 October 1943.

UBC Library is pleased to be able to add this unique acquisition to its robust Japanese Canadian Research collection that includes materials on business and commerce, mining, farming, fishing, forestry, religious activities, education, community, reminiscences and biographies in addition to materials on the Japanese Canadian evacuation.

“These letters provide a unique and important perspective on the Japanese-Canadian internment from the voices of youth,” said Krisztina Laszlo, archivist at Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC Library. “We’re thrilled that the letters are coming to RBSC and that UBC faculty, students and the community will be able to use them for research and teaching.  It’s a wonderful resource and we’re proud to act as their caretaker.”

The letters, which make up approximately 300-350 pages, can be viewed in person by visiting Rare Book and Special Collections or by booking a tour.


UBC Library has now completed its Harry Potter collection of original first editions with the recent acquisition of a U.K. first edition, first printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The library’s Rare Books and Special Collections department has been building a collection of first edition Harry Potter books since spring 2015 as part of the Arkley Collection of Early Historical Children’s Literature, which is focused on popular works.

“As the most popular children’s literature series in several generations, with global impact equaling Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Harry Potter is an important series in the children’s literature canon,” says Chelsea Shriver, UBC Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian.

Although the first Harry Potter book was published just over 20 years ago, the U.K. first edition, first printing is rare and difficult to obtain. The original print run was only 500 copies, 300 of which went directly into libraries and were never intended for sale. The latest book in the collection was purchased with money from a number of library collections funds including endowments and donations from a 2017 crowdfunding campaign.

“We are proud to join the ranks of institutions such as Princeton, Yale, the British Library, and Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries in bringing this very scarce book to UBC,” says Katherine Kalsbeek Head of Rare Books and Special Collections. “Collecting and preserving the Harry Potter series will ensure that scarce first and special editions of these works can be properly cared for and made accessible for future generations.”

UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections offers weekly drop-in tours every Wednesday, for students, faculty, and the general public to come in and see the collections in person.

UBC Library Communications team behind the 2016 Open Access Awareness campaign. Designer Jasmine Devonshire, Photographer and Videographer Clare Yow, Director Becky Potvin and Strategist Michelle Blackwell.















UBC Library is the first academic library to be selected as the Gold winner for the 2017 CPRS Digital Communications campaign of the year for their Open Access Awareness campaign.

The campus-wide campaign, that launched in the Fall of 2016 aimed to foster awareness and enhance student understanding around the Open Access movement and the open resources available through the Library. The campaign resulted in a significant increase in web traffic to the Library’s Open Access resources, major gains in year-over-year social media engagement and a successful launch event.

“We spent a lot of time understanding our student audience and determining the best ways to connect them with tools they need at a critical point in their academic careers,” said Michelle Blackwell Communications & Marketing strategist. “It is very gratifying to see that we made an impact.”

Celebrated annually, the CPRS Awards showcase Canada’s best public relations and communications projects and campaigns and was hosted in Kelowna, B.C.

“Thanks to CPRS for this recognition,” said Becky Potvin, Director of Communications for UBC Library, “the campaign was executed by a four-person team on a shoestring budget and was created in collaboration with our librarians and colleagues at the Centre for Teaching and Learning. It was successful in helping to raise the library’s profile and connect students with important research tools. We are very proud.”

Open Access Week 2016


Arthur J. Ray has won the Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for outstanding Scholarly Book on British Columbia for his book Aboriginal Rights Claims and the Making and Remaking of History. The $1,000 prize, given by UBC Library and the Pacific BookWorld News Society, will be awarded at UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre in June.

Published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, Ray’s book is a masterfully-written examination of land claims litigation between indigenous peoples and the settler societies of the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa that powerfully demonstrates the important role proceedings in British Columbia played in events of global significance.

“This book is the outgrowth of my involvement in aboriginal claims in Canada as an expert on the historical geography of the economies of First Nations and Metis communities,” says Dr. Ray, “Beginning with my participation in Delgamuukw v. The Attorney General of British Columbia (1997), l became interested in the ways extant case law and scholarship influenced claims research and, in turn, how the latter research advanced aboriginal rights law and scholarship about aboriginal people.”

“We are thrilled that this year’s Basil Stuart-Stubbs prize has been awarded to a book written by a UBC faculty member,” says Melody Burton, UBC’s Interim University Librarian. 

Arthur J. Ray is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia and has served as the co-editor of the Canadian Historical Review from 2003 to 2006. He is the author of several other books including Telling it to the Judge, An Illustrated History of Canada’s Native People and Bounty and Benevolence.

Shortlisted titles for the award include:

At Sea with the Marine Birds of the Raincoast by Caroline Fox (Rocky Mountain Books)


Yakuglas’ Legacy: The Art and Times of Charlie James by Ronald W. Hawker (University of Toronto Press).

The Basil Stuart-Stubbs Prize for Outstanding Book on British Columbia, sponsored by UBC Library and the Pacific BookWorld News Society, recognizes the best scholarly book published by a Canadian author on a B.C. subject. The award was established in memory of Basil Stuart-Stubbs, a bibliophile, scholar and librarian who passed away in 2012.Stuart-Stubbs’s many accomplishments included serving as the University Librarian at UBC Library and as the Director of UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies. Stuart-Stubbs had a leadership role in many national and regional library and publishing activities. During his exceptional career, he took particular interest in the production and distribution of Canadian books, and was associated with several initiatives beneficial to authors and their readers, and to Canadian publishing.

Mary-Lou Florian, one of Canada's most esteemed conservation scientists makes her most recent book available through UBC's Open Collections.


Mary-Lou Florian, Research Associate Emerita at the Royal British Columbia Museum, recipient of the 125th Commemorative Medal from the Governor-General of Canada and UBC alumna has made her new book, Comparative Anatomy of Branches, Roots and Wood of Some North American Dicotyledonous and Coniferous Trees and Woody Shrubs Used in Ethnographic Artifacts: Identification and Conservation Concerns available through UBC’s cIRcle Digital Repository.

After retiring in 1991 from her position as Chief of Conservation Services for the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, Florian has devoted her time to research and writing – publishing several books related to the conservation of museum objects. 

Keen to make her research more widely available, Florian approached UBC Library to make her new book available through its Open Collections. “I thank the University of British Columbia cIRcle Digital Repository for accepting my book. I am incredibly pleased the information will be available for anyone interested. An author could not wish anything more,” she said.

A comparative anatomy of tissues that were used historically in making ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, Florian hopes the book will be useful as a lab manual for teaching and reference for research, not only for ethnographic reasons, but also for many aspects of plant anatomy and identification and forestry.

“We are thrilled to provide open access to Mary-Lou’s latest book,” said Amber Saundry, Digital Repository Librarian at UBC Library, “In a short amount of time, we’ve seen strong use and interest in its specialized and unique information from conservators, curators, researchers and educators. We look forward to welcoming her future work to UBC Library via cIRcle and Open Collections“.

There is much excitement in the conservation community about the new-found accessibility of Florian’s research, “This book will be extremely useful for conservators and other collections professionals working with baskets, bark and other ethnographic materials,” says Eric Pourchot, Institutional Advancement Director at the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, “Thank you for making her research available.” 

Anne Lama, UBC’s Library Conservator is thrilled to have access to Florian’s new book, especially after encountering Florian’s research so often during her studies in the restoration of books and paper and preventive conservation at the University Paris-Sorbonne as well as her work at the National Archives in Paris. “I am thrilled she is still publishing and sharing her findings,” said Lama.

Lama expects to use the book often in her work at UBC Library. “I will be able to learn a lot from this research and it will be an excellent reference when making recommendations about the conservations of objects in our collections”.

cIRcle, UBC’s open access digital repository for published and unpublished material produced by the UBC community and its partners was created to showcase and preserve intellectual output, and support teaching, learning, and research activities. Items in cIRcle are presented through UBC Library’s Open Collections, which provides additional features that increase the findability and promotion of research. Items can be found via search engines (such as Google) and have permanent URLs and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs), so they can be discovered, accessed, and preserved long-term for future generations.

Borrow Mary-Lou Florian’s books.

More about Open Access at UBC Library.

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