[The following was written by Trang Dang, who worked in UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme from September 2019 to April 2020]

Being a graduate student of the UBC School of Information with an interest in archival processing, the Work Learn position with the UBC Archives provided me significant practical experiences. It helped reinforce my knowledge of archival theory and records management.

Since September 2019, I worked on several fonds and collections, including both institutional and personal records. With little previous working experience in archives, the gradual complexity of the assigned projects certainly helped me to become more proficient with archival arrangement and description.

I found personal archives unique and interesting, but it was not short of challenges, especially when records arrived “loose” with no obvious order, making it difficult to construct the context behind each record.

I started off with the accrued accession of the Joy Coghill fonds, from a Vancouver-based theatre director and actress, and a UBC alumna. It contained personal correspondence, miscellaneous records, and photographs. As the accrual didn’t have an “original” order, and the fonds was already arranged, the challenge came from identifying the records and assigning them to the appropriate existing series.

The photographs, which came in loose with many letters and cards in a black plastic bag, also posed difficulties due to the lack of context. Only a few of the prints had written information on the back such as dates, names and events, whereas the 35mm negatives were very small, making it hard to determine the subject. After consulting with my supervisor, we decided to keep only photographs with Joy Coghill in them, both by herself and with other individuals. Most of those individuals were unidentifiable except for Coghill’s immediate family such as her mother, husband, and daughters. To help with identification of some of the events and people a relative of Coghill had agreed to come to the Archives, and she went through the photographs with us. The prints that she couldn’t identify were then scanned and emailed to Coghill’s daughter for further assistance. Unprocessed and unidentified materials were returned to Coghill’s family.

The small research collection on Sister Mary Gonzaga collected by Barbara Gibson was straight-forward in terms of arrangement and description. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to discover that Sister Gonzaga’s letters were being held at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections. These two collections are closely connected and complement each other.

Eventually, the projects became bigger in size and so did my tasks, including researching historical background, identifying the intellectual order, and compiling the description for the entire fonds. Processing the personal archives of Laurenda Daniells, the first University Archivist, was not too challenging as the majority of records relating to her professional life had already been arranged in series upon accrual. However, similar to the difficulties encountered in Joy Coghill fonds, more time was needed to process the materials recording her personal life.

On the other hand, institutional records also came with its own challenges. For the Division of Industrial Education fonds, I first needed to compile the file list of each box. As the fonds didn’t come in an “original” order, my job was to determine the series and then physically rearrange the records accordingly.

The most challenging project were the records of the Xwi7xwa Library, a sous-fonds of the Library fonds. The difficulty arose from the complicated history of the records creator. Before becoming the official branch of the UBC Library, it was part of the Indian Education Resources Centre, and then the First Nations House of Learning. As it was not easy to determine which records were created by the Xwi7xwa Library itself, we decided to keep all except for duplicate records, and those that contained personal information.

Overall, besides the hands-on experiences in archival processing, my biggest lesson taken from this Work Learn position was the importance of decision-making and its documentation. Sometimes the archivist has to determine the order of the archives, and sometimes it might not be the best arrangement, therefore, it is critical to document any decisions during the process.

The University of British Columbia Archives is now closed to the public until further notice. Archives staff are working remotely and are able to assist with some reference questions. Inquiries can be sent through our contact form.

During this period, be sure to explore digitized materials from the Archives’ collections available on our website and through UBC Library’s Open Collections.

See also UBC Library’s official announcement for further information on Library-wide closures.

Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.

*** UPDATE: Please also see the Remote Resources and Services Guide for UBC Archives and UBC Rare Books and Special Collections for more details and assistance.

The University of British Columbia Archives recently assisted the Canadian Music Centre in British Columbia in the production of a short documentary film on the work of composer, ethnomusicologist, and UBC School of Music professor Elliot Weisgarber.

The film is part of CMC BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series, celebrating the first generation of Canadian composers to write Western concert music on the West Coast of Canada.  The films each honour one of five B.C. composers, in addition to Weisgarber:  Murray Adaskin, Barbara Pentland, Rudolf Komorous, and Jean Coulthard.  According to CMC BC, “Each of them contributed something unique, completely new and remarkable to the nation’s cultural mosaic, both through their body of work and the living legacy of students they inspired”.

The six-minute film, directed by John Bolton, is titled Aki-No-Hinode (Japanese for “Autumn Sunrise”), after one of Weisgarber’s short works for flute and piano.  Weisgarber’s daughter, Karen Suzanne Smithson, discovered the previously-unknown piece in her parents’ garage in 2002 while sorting through some of her father’s belongings looking for manuscripts to donate to the Archives.

Throughout the film, the sparse notes of Weisgarber’s composition, played on flute and piano, can be heard in the background, while the camera focusses on the manuscripts.  An emotional highlight is Smithson’s story of her discovery of the Aki-No-Hinode manuscript, and playing it “possibly for the first time”.

Aki-No-Hinode was shot in the Mackenzie Seminar Room in UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, with additional scenes showing the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) where the Weisgarber manuscripts are stored.  Karen Smithson and archivist Erwin Wodarczak are featured.  Smithson talks about her father and his work, his fascination with Asian music, and how as a composer he was a pioneer in incorporating Asian (in particular Japanase) influences and instrumentation into Western concert music.  Wodarczak describes how archival collections are stored and can be retrieved from the ASRS.  “There’s a story behind every document, behind every collection” like Weisgarber’s, he says, and describes how gratifying it is when such collections are entrusted to the Archives for safe-keeping.

The film had its debut at an Elliot Weisgarber celebration at the CMC BC’s Creative Hub in Vancouver in April.  It can now be viewed on-line.  The Aki-No-Hinode manuscript is one of 450 compositions by Elliot Weisgarber included in his collection, consisting of textual records and audio recordings, held in the University Archives.

The University of British Columbia Archives recently assisted the Canadian Music Centre in British Columbia in the production of a short documentary film on the work of composer, ethnomusicologist, and UBC School of Music professor Elliot Weisgarber.

The film is part of CMC BC’s Legacy Composer Film Series, celebrating the first generation of Canadian composers to write Western concert music on the West Coast of Canada.  The films each honour one of five B.C. composers, in addition to Weisgarber:  Murray Adaskin, Barbara Pentland, Rudolf Komorous, and Jean Coulthard.  According to CMC BC, “Each of them contributed something unique, completely new and remarkable to the nation’s cultural mosaic, both through their body of work and the living legacy of students they inspired”.

The six-minute film, directed by John Bolton, is titled Aki-No-Hinode (Japanese for “Autumn Sunrise”), after one of Weisgarber’s short works for flute and piano.  Weisgarber’s daughter, Karen Suzanne Smithson, discovered the previously-unknown piece in her parents’ garage in 2002 while sorting through some of her father’s belongings looking for manuscripts to donate to the Archives.

Throughout the film, the sparse notes of Weisgarber’s composition, played on flute and piano, can be heard in the background, while the camera focusses on the manuscripts.  An emotional highlight is Smithson’s story of her discovery of the Aki-No-Hinode manuscript, and playing it “possibly for the first time”.

Aki-No-Hinode was shot in the Mackenzie Seminar Room in UBC’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, with additional scenes showing the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) where the Weisgarber manuscripts are stored.  Karen Smithson and archivist Erwin Wodarczak are featured.  Smithson talks about her father and his work, his fascination with Asian music, and how as a composer he was a pioneer in incorporating Asian (in particular Japanase) influences and instrumentation into Western concert music.  Wodarczak describes how archival collections are stored and can be retrieved from the ASRS.  “There’s a story behind every document, behind every collection” like Weisgarber’s, he says, and describes how gratifying it is when such collections are entrusted to the Archives for safe-keeping.

The film had its debut at an Elliot Weisgarber celebration at the CMC BC’s Creative Hub in Vancouver in April.  It can now be viewed on-line.  The Aki-No-Hinode manuscript is one of 450 compositions by Elliot Weisgarber included in his collection, consisting of textual records and audio recordings, held in the University Archives.

The University of British Columbia Archives has a new website: http://archives.library.ubc.ca/!

This is a significant milestone, for several reasons.  It is the first re-design of the Archives’ website since March 2010.  Also, it coincides with the migration of the site to UBC Library’s WordPress web platform.  Finally, the updated design is now fully consistent with the Library’s Common Look and Feel (CLF) website branding.

All of our on-line historical resources – including inventories of textual records, digitized photographs and publications, virtual displays, and general historical information about the University – are still available, as are links to our access policies and procedures, records management services, and Flickr and Twitter accounts.  A standard WordPress search tool for the website is available on every page.  News and updates can be accessed on our blog, now located at http://archives.library.ubc.ca/news/.

Links to the old website should be automatically re-directed to the appropriate part of the new site.  Please let us know about any broken links or other errors.

Thanks to Yvonne Chan for technical support and advice during the re-design.

We invite you to explore the new website at http://archives.library.ubc.ca/.

The University of British Columbia Archives has a new website: https://archives.library.ubc.ca/!

This is a significant milestone, for several reasons.  It is the first re-design of the Archives’ website since March 2010.  Also, it coincides with the migration of the site to UBC Library’s WordPress web platform.  Finally, the updated design is now fully consistent with the Library’s Common Look and Feel (CLF) website branding.

All of our on-line historical resources – including inventories of textual records, digitized photographs and publications, virtual displays, and general historical information about the University – are still available, as are links to our access policies and procedures, records management services, and Flickr and Twitter accounts.  A standard WordPress search tool for the website is available on every page.  News and updates can be accessed on our blog, now located at https://archives.library.ubc.ca/news/.

Links to the old website should be automatically re-directed to the appropriate part of the new site.  Please let us know about any broken links or other errors.

Thanks to Yvonne Chan for technical support and advice during the re-design.

We invite you to explore the new website at https://archives.library.ubc.ca/.

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia[Update: A Memorial will be held at the University Hill Congregation, 6050 Chancellor Blvd. (Google Maps), Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The service will be preceded by lunch at noon and followed by a reception. Parking is available at the UBC Rose Garden parkade.]

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia, died peacefully at her home on Wednesday evening, 4 January 2017, surrounded by the love of her children and grandchildren.

Laurenda was born in Winnipeg in 1923.  She attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in social work in 1945. Her first job was with the protection division of the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg.

In May 1948 she married Roy Daniells, recently appointed as head of the English Department at the University of British Columbia, and moved with him to Vancouver. She and Roy purchased an empty lot on Allison Road in the University Hill neighbourhood, where they built one of the first homes in the progressive “West Coast Modern” style.  Together they raised two daughters (Susan and Sara), and enjoyed European and African travel adventures.  In particular, she and her family spent a year in Europe in 1959-60, during Roy’s sabbatical supported by a Canada Council grant.  Laurenda also served three terms as a school board trustee, and did a considerable amount of volunteer work.

In 1969 Laurenda returned to school and entered the one-year Library Science degree programme at UBC.  After graduating, she followed that with a six-week archival management course at the Public Archives of Canada.  In 1970 she was appointed the first University Archivist at UBC Library’s Special Collections Division.  Alone in this position for many years, Laurenda worked to bring some order to the institution’s historical records.  She organized those materials which had already accumulated in Special Collections, and arranged for the acquisition of additional  inactive administrative records from the various University departments, as well as private papers from prominent faculty, staff, and alumni.  By the time she retired in 1988 with the honorary title “University Archivist Emerita”, Laurenda had established the University Archives on firm foundations.

During her career at UBC Laurenda served for several years on the Faculty Association executive, and on the University Senate.  She also served a one-year term as president of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C.

After her retirement Laurenda continued with her volunteer work, in particular her continuing involvement with University Hill United Church.  She enjoyed writing, and in her eighties began recording her life stories with the Brock Hall Life Writers Group.  In 2016 these stories were collected in her published memoir, Royal Blood.

Roy Daniells died in 1978.  Laurenda is survived by her two daughters, and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements to be announced.

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia[Update: A Memorial will be held at the University Hill Congregation, 6050 Chancellor Blvd. (Google Maps), Sunday, January 22, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. The service will be preceded by lunch at noon and followed by a reception. Parking is available at the UBC Rose Garden parkade.]

Laurenda Daniells, first Archivist of the University of British Columbia, died peacefully at her home on Wednesday evening, 4 January 2017, surrounded by the love of her children and grandchildren.

Laurenda was born in Winnipeg in 1923.  She attended the University of Manitoba and graduated with a degree in social work in 1945. Her first job was with the protection division of the Children’s Aid Society of Winnipeg.

In May 1948 she married Roy Daniells, recently appointed as head of the English Department at the University of British Columbia, and moved with him to Vancouver. She and Roy purchased an empty lot on Allison Road in the University Hill neighbourhood, where they built one of the first homes in the progressive “West Coast Modern” style.  Together they raised two daughters (Susan and Sara), and enjoyed European and African travel adventures.  In particular, she and her family spent a year in Europe in 1959-60, during Roy’s sabbatical supported by a Canada Council grant.  Laurenda also served three terms as a school board trustee, and did a considerable amount of volunteer work.

In 1969 Laurenda returned to school and entered the one-year Library Science degree programme at UBC.  After graduating, she followed that with a six-week archival management course at the Public Archives of Canada.  In 1970 she was appointed the first University Archivist at UBC Library’s Special Collections Division.  Alone in this position for many years, Laurenda worked to bring some order to the institution’s historical records.  She organized those materials which had already accumulated in Special Collections, and arranged for the acquisition of additional  inactive administrative records from the various University departments, as well as private papers from prominent faculty, staff, and alumni.  By the time she retired in 1988 with the honorary title “University Archivist Emerita”, Laurenda had established the University Archives on firm foundations.

During her career at UBC Laurenda served for several years on the Faculty Association executive, and on the University Senate.  She also served a one-year term as president of the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C.

After her retirement Laurenda continued with her volunteer work, in particular her continuing involvement with University Hill United Church.  She enjoyed writing, and in her eighties began recording her life stories with the Brock Hall Life Writers Group.  In 2016 these stories were collected in her published memoir, Royal Blood.

Roy Daniells died in 1978.  Laurenda is survived by her two daughters, and four grandchildren. Funeral arrangements to be announced.

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.

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