While transcribing Frank Fairchild Wesbrook’s diary entry for 12 October 1916 onto Twitter (@Pres_FFWesbrook), UBC Archives staff were reminded of an important anniversary:

8:15     Vancouver Institute *
Hill Tout in chair.
Lecture Archibald – “Atom
Fine.

With this rather terse note, starred and underlined in red pencil, UBC’s first president marked the inaugural lecture presented by the Vancouver Institute.

The Institute had been officially established on 25 February of that year.  Its initial aim was to coordinate and bring under one organization the various public lecture series which until then had delivered independently by different groups, often on conflicting schedules.  Many of these, including the Art, Historical and Scientific Association, the Academy of Science, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, the Vancouver Trades and Labor Council, and the Women’s University Club, quickly affiliated themselves with the Institute.  They represented a wide range of interests within the intellectual and professional community of Vancouver and British Columbia.

The Institute also boasted substantial links to the University.  Wesbrook had been instrumental in its initial organization, and was serving as its first President.  Several UBC faculty members had also been involved with the Institute from its very beginnings, and more than half of the lectures during its first year were scheduled to be delivered by UBC staff.  Finally, lectures were being presented in the newly-completed Assembly Hall at UBC’s Fairview campus at the corner of Tenth Avenue and Willow Streets – after the University moved to its Point Grey campus, the Institute would follow it there.  For that reason the Vancouver Institute would come to be seen as a liaison between “town and gown” – a link between the University and the wider community.

In Wesbrook’s diary entry, “Hill Tout” refered to Charles Hill-Tout, noted educator and amateur anthropologist, who was the Honorary President of the Institute.  That first lecture, sponsored by the Academy of Science, was presented by E.H. Archibald, Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Chemistry – the first in a long line of Institute speakers drawn from the University.  The title of his lecture was “The Atom of the Chemist”.

No full transcript of Archibald’s talk survives, but Vancouver newspaper clippings preserved in the Archives’ scrapbook collection at least provide something more than Wesbrook’s understated “Fine”.  The next day the Daily News-Advertiser summarized the collective opinion of Charles Hill-Tout and the audience, “that such a scientific lecture as Prof. Archibald had given enlarged immensely the field of knowledge and quickened the imagination…”.

By comparing and contrasting the modern views of the universe based upon scientific facts, with the old theories of philosophy it was shown how slow was the development of knowledge in the past and how rapid it would be when we had the key to nature’s mysteries supplied by a knowledge of natural laws.

A follow-up News-Advertiser article went into more detail about Archibald’s discussion of how the newly-discovered concept of radioactivity allowed scientists to determine the true age of the earth.  Apparently geologists of the day were “troubled” by estimates that our planet was “only” one hundred million years old.  Archibald “gave assurance to the troubled geologists” that the earth’s age was much greater than previously supposed, allowing plenty of time for the formation of sedimentary deposits and other geological changes in the past.

At the end of his lecture, the audience, which filled one of the main lecture rooms in UBC’s Chemistry building, peppered Archibald with more questions:

… whether radium caused the heat of the sun, and if so how long it might be expected to keep hot; whether the doctrine of Christian Science, that there was no such thing as matter, was sound; whether a stone building was really solid or composed of particles moving so fast that they seemed to be solid, like the spokes of a moving wheel; whether radium cured cancer; how the world and the planets got started in the first place.  These and more commonplace questions poured in as fast as they could be answered or avoided, and produced a highly entertaining half-hour.

It is obvious from such accounts that the Vancouver Institute had found an audience.  The rest of the 1916/17 term would feature lectures on such diverse topics as Renaissance architecture, English literature, bacteria (presented by President Wesbrook, a noted bacteriologist), “the high cost of living”, precious metals and banking, and the early settlement of British Columbia, among others.  Citizens from all backgrounds – professionals and workers, academics and laypersons – would certainly find something of interest in the Institute’s programme.  This would remain true for the next one hundred years.

While transcribing Frank Fairchild Wesbrook’s diary entry for 12 October 1916 onto Twitter (@Pres_FFWesbrook), UBC Archives staff were reminded of an important anniversary:

8:15     Vancouver Institute *
Hill Tout in chair.
Lecture Archibald – “Atom
Fine.

With this rather terse note, starred and underlined in red pencil, UBC’s first president marked the inaugural lecture presented by the Vancouver Institute.

The Institute had been officially established on 25 February of that year.  Its initial aim was to coordinate and bring under one organization the various public lecture series which until then had delivered independently by different groups, often on conflicting schedules.  Many of these, including the Art, Historical and Scientific Association, the Academy of Science, the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, the Vancouver Trades and Labor Council, and the Women’s University Club, quickly affiliated themselves with the Institute.  They represented a wide range of interests within the intellectual and professional community of Vancouver and British Columbia.

The Institute also boasted substantial links to the University.  Wesbrook had been instrumental in its initial organization, and was serving as its first President.  Several UBC faculty members had also been involved with the Institute from its very beginnings, and more than half of the lectures during its first year were scheduled to be delivered by UBC staff.  Finally, lectures were being presented in the newly-completed Assembly Hall at UBC’s Fairview campus at the corner of Tenth Avenue and Willow Streets – after the University moved to its Point Grey campus, the Institute would follow it there.  For that reason the Vancouver Institute would come to be seen as a liaison between “town and gown” – a link between the University and the wider community.

In Wesbrook’s diary entry, “Hill Tout” refered to Charles Hill-Tout, noted educator and amateur anthropologist, who was the Honorary President of the Institute.  That first lecture, sponsored by the Academy of Science, was presented by E.H. Archibald, Assistant Professor in the UBC Department of Chemistry – the first in a long line of Institute speakers drawn from the University.  The title of his lecture was “The Atom of the Chemist”.

No full transcript of Archibald’s talk survives, but Vancouver newspaper clippings preserved in the Archives’ scrapbook collection at least provide something more than Wesbrook’s understated “Fine”.  The next day the Daily News-Advertiser summarized the collective opinion of Charles Hill-Tout and the audience, “that such a scientific lecture as Prof. Archibald had given enlarged immensely the field of knowledge and quickened the imagination…”.

By comparing and contrasting the modern views of the universe based upon scientific facts, with the old theories of philosophy it was shown how slow was the development of knowledge in the past and how rapid it would be when we had the key to nature’s mysteries supplied by a knowledge of natural laws.

A follow-up News-Advertiser article went into more detail about Archibald’s discussion of how the newly-discovered concept of radioactivity allowed scientists to determine the true age of the earth.  Apparently geologists of the day were “troubled” by estimates that our planet was “only” one hundred million years old.  Archibald “gave assurance to the troubled geologists” that the earth’s age was much greater than previously supposed, allowing plenty of time for the formation of sedimentary deposits and other geological changes in the past.

At the end of his lecture, the audience, which filled one of the main lecture rooms in UBC’s Chemistry building, peppered Archibald with more questions:

… whether radium caused the heat of the sun, and if so how long it might be expected to keep hot; whether the doctrine of Christian Science, that there was no such thing as matter, was sound; whether a stone building was really solid or composed of particles moving so fast that they seemed to be solid, like the spokes of a moving wheel; whether radium cured cancer; how the world and the planets got started in the first place.  These and more commonplace questions poured in as fast as they could be answered or avoided, and produced a highly entertaining half-hour.

It is obvious from such accounts that the Vancouver Institute had found an audience.  The rest of the 1916/17 term would feature lectures on such diverse topics as Renaissance architecture, English literature, bacteria (presented by President Wesbrook, a noted bacteriologist), “the high cost of living”, precious metals and banking, and the early settlement of British Columbia, among others.  Citizens from all backgrounds – professionals and workers, academics and laypersons – would certainly find something of interest in the Institute’s programme.  This would remain true for the next one hundred years.

Just before the grandstand of the old stadium at the University of British Columbia was torn down in 1968, a collection of old scrapbooks of uncertain origin was rescued from a storage room. Fortunately, instead of being thrown in the trash, they were recognized as valuable historical artifacts and sent to the Library. The scrapbooks eventually became part of the collections of the University Archives.

Based on the book plates and bindings, it appears that many of these bound volumes were made by G.A. Roedde Ltd. – which represents another link to Vancouver’s history, as Roedde was the city’s first bookbinder. Their contents document the origins and early history of UBC, from 1890 to 1941: mostly newspaper clippings from Vancouver-area newspapers, regarding University issues, student activities, and special events. Some scrapbooks also include photographs, souvenir programmes, and other memorabilia.

Newspapers represented by the clippings in the scrapbooks include the Vancouver Sun, the Province, the Daily News-Advertiser, the Vancouver Daily World, the Vancouver Star, and the New Westminster Columbian. They include both articles and letters-to-the-editor, so they document both the history of UBC and the evolution of public opinion about the University.

The volumes were originally scanned in 2006 as black-and-white PDF images. In 2013, work-study student Shyla Seller was assigned to re-scan the volumes at higher resolution and in colour. Those not yet completed are marked as [BW].

The scrapbooks were compiled by several individuals over the years. Volume #1 was compiled by F.C. Wade, an early supporter of the University. Volume #3, which due to its unusual formatting has not been digitized, was presumably either compiled by UBC President Frank Wesbrook or presented to him at some point.

For many years the origins of the other scrapbooks were unknown. However, during the 2013 re-scanning project Shyla discovered a reference to William Tansley as being the compiler of many of them. An article pasted in page 90 of Volume #22 identifies him as “Custodian of the Clippings”. Tansley was originally the University custodian and groundskeeper, and later curator of the University Museum, the predecessor of the UBC Museum of Anthropology. Based on that article, and from the handwriting in the scrapbooks, it appears that he was responsible for at least Volumes #19-26, and continued to maintain and compile them until his retirement in 1941. An additional volume, numbered 27, was not among the scrapbooks discovered in the old stadium. Originally included among the Tansley papers in the University Archives, it was recently identified as being part of the collection and is now available in digital form for the first time.

Volume numbers, dates, and other title information included in the list are mostly based on the inscriptions on the covers of the original books.



Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and hosted by the School of Library, Archival, and Information Studies (SLAIS). Men and women 150 years ago grappled with information overload by making scrapbooks-the ancestors of Google and blogging. From Abraham Lincoln to Susan B. Anthony, African American janitors to farmwomen, abolitionists to Confederates, people cut out and pasted down their reading. Writing with Scissors opens a new window into the feelings and thoughts of ordinary and extraordinary Americans. Like us, nineteenth-century readers spoke back to the media, and treasured what mattered to them. Ellen Gruber Garvey reveals a previously unexplored layer of American popular culture, where the proliferating cheap press touched the lives of activists and mourning parents, and all who yearned for a place in history. Scrapbook makers documented their feelings about momentous public events such as living through the Civil War, mediated through the newspapers. African Americans and women’s rights activists collected, concentrated, and critiqued accounts from a press that they did not control to create “unwritten histories” in books they wrote with scissors. Whether scrapbook makers pasted their clippings into blank books, sermon collections, or the pre-gummed scrapbook that Mark Twain invented, they claimed ownership of their reading. They created their own democratic archives.

Biography

Ellen Gruber Garvey, is Professor in the English Department of New Jersey City University, where she also teaches Women’s and Gender Studies. Her teaching interests include 19th century American literature, print culture, popular literature, lesbian and gay literature, and children’s literature.


Select Articles Available at UBC

Ellis, Jacqueline; Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (2012). Teaching Under Attack [Special Issue]. Transformations: The Journal of Inclusive Scholarship and Pedagogy. 23(1). pp. 11- 14. [Link]

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (2010). Nineteenth-Century Abolitionists and the Databases They Created. Legacy. 27(2). pp. 357-366. [Link]

Garvey, Ellen Gruber. (2009). Less Work for “Mother”: Rural Readers, Farm Papers, and the Makeover of “The Revolt of ‘Mother’”. Legacy. 26(1). pp. 119-135. [Link]


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