Charles Spring

Charles Spring

Last summer, we processed a very interesting new fonds here at RBSC. The Charles E. Spring (1859-1938) fonds provides great insight into the sealing industry of British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the on-going campaign of one man to receive restitution for the loss of his business. The son of a pioneering sealer and trader in British Columbia, Spring was educated in Victoria and worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company before taking over the family sealing business at the age of 24 upon the death of his father. Spring’s business suffered when, in 1885, United States cutters began seizing vessels caught sealing in the North Pacific in order to protect their sealing interests in Alaska. Later, in order to ease tensions between the United States and Great Britain over the Bering Sea controversy, a temporary agreement (the “Modus Vivendi”) prohibiting pelagic sealing in the Bering Sea was put in place for the 1891-1892 and 1892-1893 seasons. The resulting loss of revenue financially ruined Spring. Although Spring received a settlement for financial losses caused by the seizure of one of his ships and the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1891-1892 season, he continued to pursue claims for losses suffered due to the extension of the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1892-1893 season. He also became an active spokesman for other sealers in their claims.

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

The Charles E. Spring fonds contains records spanning the period 1888-1937 relating to the sealing industry and Spring’s claims for financial losses. A number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds have been digitized and are now available through the Adam Matthew research database “China, America and the Pacific: Trade and Cultural Exchange”. The database is available to UBC students and faculty with a campus-wide login, or to the larger community by visiting a UBC Library and logging on to a UBC networked computer. Database users will be able to view high-resolution scans of a number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds, including the ledgers of several schooners, crew agreements, petitions, memoranda and memorials, correspondence, court papers, log books, photographs, and more. We’re so happy to be able to share these materials and this fascinating look into B.C.’s sealing industry with all of you.

Due to a facilities issue, the reading room for Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives will be closed on Friday, August 30. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to seeing our patrons when we resume reading room open hours.

A reminder that Rare Books and Special Collections, University Archives and the Chung Collection will be closed on Monday August 6th for B.C. Day, along with all other branches of UBC Library.

If you will be spending your long weekend watching the Olympic games, you might be interested to know that Rare Books and Special Collection holds the archives of former Olympian Harold Wright. He represented Canada in the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles as a sprinter, reaching the semi-finals in the 100 and 200 m races. He went on to become the president of the Canadian Olympic Association, and would play a key role in bringing the summer Olympics to Montreal in 1976. Wright passed away in 1997, and was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1987.  His archives contains a great deal of textual documents and ephemera related to sporting in B.C. and Canada, especially the Olympic games. There catalogue record for the collection is here; click on the inventory link for a detailed finding aid.

We were shocked and saddened this week to learn of the cancellation of the National Archival Development Program. This is in addition to a major round of cuts at Library and Archives Canada, which was the funding source of the program.

The funding is used by the Archives Association of British Columbia, as it is in other provinces and territories by their respective archival organizations, to maintain our provincial database of archival holdings, MemoryBC,  and to employ a professional archivist and a professional conservator to provide advice to archival institutions and archivists when needed.  It also provides professional development opportunities for archivists, so that we can continue to learn to serve our patrons and our collections better. UBC Rare Books and Special Collections has very frequently taken advantage of these opportunities; for example, this program was used to help develop a preservation plan for the Chung Collection, a declared national treasure and one of our most frequently used collections.

This same pot of funds was used to maintain the national archival database, Archives Canada. This database brings together archival descriptions from institutions across Canada. There is no other “one stop shop” for searching archives across the country, making this and provincial/territorial equivalents like MemoryBC absolutely crucial research tools for everybody who uses archives.   In our reference and teaching activities here at RBSC, we are constantly referring researchers to these resources.

Images of Jack Shadbolt mural, preserved and catalogued using NADP funds

Images of Jack Shadbolt mural, preserved and catalogued using NADP funds

The other arm of this funding was used to provide matching grants to archival institutions to preserve, catalogue and disseminate our archival collections. In recent years, this funding was used by Rare Books and Special Collections to catalogue and make available the Mike Apsey fonds, the Council of Forest Industries fonds, and the  Red Cedar Shingle and Handsplit Shake Bureau fonds (all in our recently created Forest History research guide); the Jack and Doris Shadbolt fonds (featured in our British Columbian Art and Artists research guide); and the Rosemary Brown fonds (the archives of the first black female member of a Canadian parliamentary body). Just from these examples, it is easy to see that this funding is crucial in helping the Canadian public gain access to records ranging from industry, to politics, to the environment, to the arts.

Advertisement from the Red Cedar and Handsplit Shake Bureau fonds, preserved and catalogued using NADP funds

Advertisement from the Red Cedar and Handsplit Shake Bureau fonds, preserved and catalogued using NADP funds

The National Archival Development Program was administered by the Canadian Council of Archives.  If you would like to learn more, there is a Call to Action on their website.

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