One of the projects undertaken by our colleagues at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections during the COVID-19 shut-down of on-campus operations  has been to develop a new on-line guide to Chinese-Canadian materials in their collections.  One of the subjects being researched for this project was the identity of the first Chinese-Canadian graduate of UBC.

Racist attitudes towards Chinese immigrants were prevalent in Canada, especially in British Columbia, early in the 20th Century, as were discriminatory government policies.  The federal government’s head tax, charged to each Chinese person entering Canada, continued to be levied until 1923.  That year the Chinese Immigration Act abolished the tax while banning almost all immigration from China.  Nevertheless, members of the immigrant community continued to successfully improve their economic and social status despite the systemic racism they encountered in both public policy and in society at large.  As Chinese students were exempt from the immigration ban, one possible way for them to do so was to pursue higher education.

While there were no official barriers at UBC and Chinese students were presumably welcomed by the administration like any other students, the University was still part of British Columbia society and so still reflected that society’s attitudes.  White students, even if they otherwise did their best to treat a Chinese classmate as one of their own, would sometimes reveal the racist attitudes that they grew up with.  For example, terms like “Celestial” (a slang term for anybody of Chinese descent, China being nicknamed “The Celestial Kingdom”) or “Chinaman”, or worse, occasionally found their way onto the printed pages of the Annual (a.k.a. the Totem) yearbook and the Ubyssey student newspaper.

Graduation photo of Thomas Moore Whaun, Arts '27, from the 1927 Totem yearbook.The initial draft of the new RBSC on-line guide stated that Thomas Moore Whaun (left) was the first Chinese-Canadian graduate of UBC.  Born as Tung Mow Wong in China in 1893, he immigrated to Canada in 1907 – anglicizing his name in the process.  According to back issues of the UBC Calendar Whaun entered UBC in 1921.  He took two years off from his studies to work for the Canada Morning News newspaper, and eventually graduated as a member of the Arts 1927 class.  According the Totem for that year:

An ardent student of Economics and History, and an extensive reader, he loves to get to the bottom of all social problems. Thoroughly versed in Chinese affairs, Moore may often be found explaining the situation in the Far East to a group of interested students.

After reviewing the guide, UBC Chinese Language Librarian Jing Liu noted that several members of the Yip family had attended UBC earlier than 1921, and that there might have been other Chinese-Canadian students during that period.  RBSC Archivist Krisztina Laszlo then reached out to the University Archives for more information.

Searching digitized issues of both the Calendar and the yearbook did indeed reveal more information.  While the yearbooks listed the members of each graduating class, with accompanying biographical sketches and graduation photographs, in those days the Calendar listed all students registered each year, making it relatively easy to track students’ progress.  This is a case where referring to published (secondary) sources is as effective, and far easier, than going through original (primary) sources, such as old student records from the Registrar’s Office, which were not available for review anyway due to pandemic restrictions.

Photo of Quene Yip as member of 1925-26 UBC first soccer team, from 1926 Totem yearbookA search of the Calendar showed that several members of the Yip family did indeed attend UBC in those early days.  Kew Park Yip registered in the Faculty of Agriculture in 1918, then transferred to Arts in 1919.  Kew Ghim Yip registered in Arts in 1920.  Later that decade, Quene Kew Yip (right) and Kew Dock Yip entered Arts in 1925 and 1926, respectively.  Quene Yip joined the varsity soccer team and track team as a freshman, and had an immediate impact:

Quene Yip, the Chinese star, needs no introduction to Vancouver soccer lovers, but there may be some students who have not been privileged to see him perform yet. He is rated as one of the best centers on the Pacific Coast, and he well deserves that reputation. He is tricky, clean and fast. (Totem, 1926)

Other Chinese-Canadian students from that period include John Shih Chu, who joined Kew Park Yip in Agriculture in 1918; Thomas Chu, who registered in the Faculty of Arts in 1919; Violet Wong and Sow Poon Wong, both of whom entered Arts in 1922; and Shu-Yen Chen and Jung Bow Wing, listed in the Calendar as being from China, and who both entered Arts in 1916.  However, none of these individuals are listed as graduates from UBC, either in the Calendar or the yearbook.  We must assume that they either did not continue their studies, or transferred to other colleges or universities.  Whether this was due to racist attitudes that they encountered on campus, or other unrelated reasons, is unknown.

Going even further back in time, McGill University College of British Columbia, UBC’s immediate post-secondary predecessor, also attracted some Chinese-Canadians to register as students.  May Susan Ling Yipsang was registered as a first-year at McGill BC in 1914, but did not continue her studies.

Bertha Hosang registered in the Arts programme in 1910, and continued at McGill BC for two years.  She made enough of an impression for the 1911 Annual to use a quote from the classic Japanese story Genji Monogatara or The Tale of Genji to describe her as “So young and bright” (that it was incongruous, if not bizarre, to quote a Japanese work to describe a Chinese student, as if the two “Oriental” nationalities were interchangeable, didn’t seem to occur to the editors).  The 1913 Annual tells readers that Bertha went on to the Vancouver Business Institute, “where she was awarded a special prize for her accurate work”.

Photo of George Y.K. Shuen from 1913 McGill BC AnnualFinally, flipping the pages of UBC (pre)history back to 1909, the McGill BC Calendar notes that George Y.K. Shuen (right) registered in Arts that year; dropping out after one term, he returned and entered the Applied Science programme in 1911.  A recent immigrant from China, George Shuen’s residence is given as Vancouver in the McGill UBC Calendar, while in the 1913 Annual he’s described as having been “born somewhere in China or thereabouts”.  The patronizing tone of that editorial remark is exacerbated by later referring to him as a “Celestial”.

As McGill BC was only a two-year college, students would have had to go elsewhere to complete their degrees – we must assume that George Shuen did so.  However, it is safe to say that he was the first Chinese-Canadian to attend what would later become UBC.

Graduation photo of Esther Fong Dickman (Arts '26) from the 1926 Totem yearbookBut what about those Chinese-Canadian students who actually graduated from UBC?  The year before Thomas Whaun received his degree, Esther Evangeline Fong Dickman (left) was a member of Arts 1926.  Her bio in the Totem read, in part, “Mathematician, platonist, and erstwhile philosopher, Esther is the class enigma.  She divides the principal part of her time between the Students’ International Club, the Math. Club, the S.C.M., Phil. essays (of all things), Economics, and a few other cheerful divertissements. Favorite occupation, starting for the library. Esther plans to follow the teaching profession…”.  According to Lisa Smedman’s Immigrants: Stories of Vancouver’s people, She was the daughter of Reverend Fong Dickman (born Fong Tak Man), a Methodist minister and prominent member of the Vancouver Island Chinese community.  Esther Fong Dickman was the first Chinese-Canadian woman to graduate from UBC.

Graduation photo of Inglis Hosang (Arts '19) from the 1919 UBC Annual yearbookGoing back further, to 1919, the Annual lists Inglis Hosang (right), the brother of Bertha Hosang, as a graduate from the Faculty of Arts that year.  He was noted as being “… of no small scholarly attainments, and is an accomplished linguist. He won the oratorical contest (in his Sophomore year), and, as a Junior, helped to defeat Washington in the international debate”.  He returned to campus the following year to give a public lecture on “China and the Shantung Problem”.  According to the October 1945 Graduate Chronicle he went on to earn a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley (1931), after which he moved to England, was called to the English Bar in 1934, and became a barrister-at-law.  Hosang later lived in Hong Kong until the Japanese invasion of 1937 – he then moved back to Vancouver where he joined the law firm of A.J.B. Mellish.  He died in August 1945.

Neither the Annual nor the Calendar list any Chinese-Canadians by name as UBC graduates prior to 1919.  So the Archives can confirm that Inglis Hosang (Arts 1919) was the first Chinese-Canadian to graduate from this university.  He, George Y.K. Shuen, Esther Fong Dickman, and others from the McGill BC and early UBC days deserve recognition for their achievements against the prevailing attitudes of their era.  Other current and past Chinese-Canadian UBC students – indeed, all members of the UBC community – owe them a debt of gratitude for contributing to the evolution of a more diverse and welcoming institution.

(Thanks to Krisztina Laszlo and Jing Liu for their helpful comments on an early draft of this article)

[The following was written by Manfred Nissley, currently working for the UBC Archives in the Work Learn student employee programme]

A year after starting at the University of British Columbia as an archival science and library science student, a work-learn position opened up in University Archives. I applied for this position because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to put my archival science education into practice.

As an archival processing assistant for the University Archives, my job is to process accessions acquired according to University Records Management schedules or through donations from private parties.  I have discovered the clear differences between these types of accession. These differences mean there is often something unique to consider during processing.

Each project I have worked on has come with its own unique challenges. These challenges often depended on whether the creator of a fonds had a coherent records management system, a typical situation for university records, or if a private party simply tossed documents and ephemera in a box without a clear order of arrangement. While extra time must be spent with a disorganized fonds, the extra time needed allows the processor to become intimate with the materials. This intimacy would prove to be rather valuable for me during the CoVid-19 pandemic.

I have worked on so many projects that detailing all the projects I have completed is impossible. So, I am only going to highlight some of my favorites and state that my projects ranged from only a few centimetres to several metres. Some of these projects ended up providing opportunities to make personal connections with fonds creators. Others featured random situations that caused me to reflect on the importance of my work preserving records for family members and future researchers.

One such random situation came while I processed the School of Social Work fonds soon after I was hired. The records were from the late 1980’s to the early 2000’s and were rather convoluted. The fonds contained personal identifiable information (PII), deliberately preserved organic material, random coins, and student art that had been distorted due to severe off-gassing. Decisions had to be made throughout the processing about how to best preserve or destroy (especially the PII) these items or their storage containers. Halfway through the project, I became curious about the creators of the records, so I decided to begin my research for the administrative history section of the finding aid by looking into the histories of the administrators. When I researched Elaine Stoler, the department director from 1993-1998, I was surprised to learn she died a few days after I started processing the fonds!

Another favorite project featured several boxes of random ephemera and records belonging to multiple fonds. My task was to research these items, discover to which fonds they belonged, and process any unprocessed fonds. Some of my favorite finds included President Frank Wesbrook’s portfolio case (my all-time favorite find), a box of specimen slides of ocean dwelling microorganisms from the late 19th century, numerous medals and plaques, and the unprocessed accessions of Laurence Meredith and Valerie Haig-Brown. This project is a great reminder of the importance of documenting storage and recovery activities, especially during a crisis. Some of the ephemera had been temporarily misplaced in remote storage after a break-in at the archives many years ago. This misplacement resulted finding aids being updated over time to include notes about missing items.

The processing of the Meredith and Haig-Brown fonds was interesting as well. Both of these UBC Alumni and Ubyssey writers had storied careers. Valerie Haig-Brown, like her father Roderick, is an author and a particularly important conservation activist in the Pacific Northwest. She was a high-school track and field star who joined the Vancouver Olympic Club and was in consideration for the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

Laurence Meredith, also a writer for the Ubyssey, was initially a high school teacher upon graduation. However, he soon moved to London and became a reporter for United Press International, eventually being made head of the Portugal office. He joined the Royal Air Force during WW2 and survived a parachuteless 1000 foot fall that did not end his military career. His fonds was sent around the world to UBC after his death in 1990.

Another project featured Florence McNeil, also a Ubyssey writer. Florence, an author, married Mr. McNeal, but she kept McNeil as her nom de plume. According to a memorial published in Trek magazine, McNeil was known for being evasive about her personal details. To ensure that McNeil can be properly identified in the future by archivists and researchers, statements about her husband’s name and nom de plume were included in the fonds’ Finding Aid.

One of my recent projects featured the fonds of Professor of Creative Writing Keith Maillard, who is also writer by profession. As a genealogist, this project was particularly interesting because the fonds includes a significant amount of family history and genealogical research. It also included a large amount of ephemera of Keith’s estranged father, which is discussed in Keith’s memoir Fatherless. I was curious about Keith’s genealogical story, his anti-war history, and the potential original order of some records. So, I reached out to him. He ended up sending me a signed copy of his memoir Fatherless, which is a must-read in my opinion.

I mentioned earlier that in some cases intimate knowledge of a fonds contents is a benefit. During CoVid-19, I was relegated to working from home. To keep me busy, I was given the main task of creating and editing Wikipedia pages dedicated to the people whose fonds on which I worked. The intimacy allowed me to use memorized information to recall what appropriate search strings and additional sources I needed to use to create and edit those pages according to Wikipedia standards.

One further note. It is rather interesting to me that many of the donated fonds I have processed were created by individuals who were editors and writers for the Ubyssey. As a genealogist, I find this relationship with the Ubyssey as almost a familial bond. It is my belief that that ties like this should be used by archives to promote the facility to those were part of that long standing culture. To that end, if you are reading this blog post and you were an editor or writer for the Ubyssey, please consider donating your papers to the University Archives. Your papers will be preserved and be in good company with other Ubyssey alumni. And don’t worry, if you moved to another nation, we can still take your papers – for example, Laurence Meredith’s archive travelled halfway around the world to get back to UBC.

Businesses, educational institutions, and many other institutions have closed or at least severely limited public access.  Hospitals are struggling to deal with waves of sick individuals, with other facilities being converted into makeshift hospitals.  Citizens are being told to stay home as much as possible, and to avoid gathering in groups.  Everybody is listening to news reports from foreign countries, documenting mounting death tolls and rising social tensions, while waiting with a growing sense of dread for the situation at home to get worse.

While this sounds like the current COVID-19 epidemic, the situation described applies to a similar crisis that hit Vancouver and the University of British Columbia over a century ago: the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19 (a.k.a. the “Spanish flu”), that afflicted the entire world as the First World War was drawing to a close.

The first case of influenza was reported in Vancouver on 5 October 1918; the first death was recorded on the 10th.  The number of daily reported cases spiraled upwards rapidly, reaching 522 on the 22nd October, while the death rate peaked on 27 October when 24 died that day.

Life on the original UBC Fairview campus (where Vancouver General Hospital stands today) began to change within a few days of the local appearance of the flu virus.  By 14 October local hospitals had become so overcrowded that the Auditorium and an adjacent classroom building were taken over by VGH.  An improvised hospital ward with 100 beds was quickly set up, exclusively for influenza cases – access to students and all other non-medical personnel was cut off.  The Board of Governors declared that they had “consented to this occupation on the representation of the city health officer and of the hospital board that such additional accommodation in the vicinity of the hospital is absolutely necessary in the present situation, and their assurance that the use of the buildings for this purpose will not be a source of danger to the students” (The Province, 14 October 1918).

Closure of the auditorium forced the relocation of several classes.  Some were moved to the local Baptist Church, others to the science drafting room, and one was even held in the stack room of the Library.  Students’ Council meetings had to be held in a corridor, among stacked furniture removed from the council room.  By Friday the 18th a meeting of the student body had passed a resolution asking the Board of Governors to close the university until conditions improved.

The announcement that University classes would be suspended due to the epidemic was made on 20 October.  The closure would last five weeks, forcing the re-vamping of the entire academic calendar.  Christmas exams would eventually be delayed until February, and the second term extended by two weeks.  All student activities, such as sporting events, theatre productions, and publication of the Ubyssey, were also cancelled.  When the war ended on 11 November, there was no opportunity for the University community, born in war-time only three years earlier, to celebrate.

Not only were regular classes disrupted by the epidemic – other educational groups based on the campus saw their activities interrupted as well.  These included the Vancouver Institute, which had to cancel or re-schedule several lectures that fall, and the Vancouver Natural History Society.  Evening classes in botany were also postponed indefinitely.

Although classes and social activities were suspended, UBC students and staff did not remain idle.  Some served as orderlies at the hospital, while others worked for the city relief offices and other organizations helping citizens cope during the crisis.  The women of the student Red Cross Society, led by Modern Languages instructor Isabel MacInnes, volunteered as nurses in the VGH influenza ward.  Some of them also found time to make over 300 flu masks and sew 65 pairs of pajamas.  The demonstrated importance of nurses in the treatment of flu patients, whether trained professionals or volunteers, would serve as an impetus to the establishment of UBC’s nursing programme in 1919.

Many students became sick, either during the virus’s first devastating onslaught that fall, or in one of the epidemic’s later waves.  Three students died: H.G. (Horace) Stedman, Wilfrid Moore, and David W. Murray – a fourth, Gerald M. “Shorty” Harvey, had enlisted in the armed forces and died from influenza during basic training.  All were eulogized in the 1919 Annual as “brilliant… promising young men” whose deaths were “deeply felt by students and faculty alike”.  Enrollment still numbered only several hundred, and the University was still a very small, close-knit community.  The deaths of these young men, seemingly spared the horrors of war only to be cut down by disease, affected everybody especially hard.

After the epidemic’s peak in late October the infection and death rates went into steep decline, and the flu had seemingly all but disappeared by the end of November.  Classes resumed on 26 November, and within a week academic and social activities had returned to near-regular routines.  However, the epidemic would soon return: two more waves followed, peaking in January and March, both of which were less extensive than the original outbreak, but with a relatively higher fatality rate.

And then it was over.  Students were left to look back upon what they had survived, and what they had accomplished.  As was written in the “Foreword” of the 1919 Annual, with just a hint of stiff-upper-lipped understatement:

The work of all classes was much disorganised and everyone felt a little out of poise.  But it has been highly pleasing to see the mutual feeling between the Faculty and student body in attempting to regain that which was lost, and to make the present count for the most.

Hopefully, once the current COVID-19 epidemic has subsided, today’s UBC community will be able to look back with similar sentiments.

Sources:

Tuum Est by Harry T. Logan (1958)
UBC Scrapbooks (1890-1941) – clippings from local newspapers
1919 Annual
Andrews, Margaret W., “Epidemic and Public Health: Influenza in Vancouver, 1918-1919”, BC Studies, No. 34, Summer 1977.

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.

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.

The University Archives has launched a new on-line resource: an annotated list of First Nations-related historical resources held in the Archives.

This is an overview of resources maintained by the Archives which may be relevant to research on First Nations history and contemporary issues. It includes references to relevant materials in our various collections and links to information presented on our website. These are cited as documenting First Nations history and culture in general, and the evolution of UBC’s relationships with First Nations in particular. They include archival materials in all media (textual, photographic, audiovisual, and digital), websites, and Internet-based collections and related resources.

The focus of this compilation is on research materials held in the University Archives. Researchers are advised to consult with staff in other Library branches, such as Rare Books and Special Collections and Xwi7xwa Library, regarding materials in their collections.

This list is not intended to be fully comprehensive, but will serve as an introduction for researchers. Patrons researching specific individuals, groups, or events may find information in other collections and resources maintained by the Archives but not listed here. Archives staff are available to suggest other avenues of research and otherwise provide assistance.

Thanks to Ann Doyle and her colleagues at Xwi7xwa Library for their guidance in compiling this list.

The University Archives has launched a new on-line resource: an annotated list of First Nations-related historical resources held in the Archives.

This is an overview of resources maintained by the Archives which may be relevant to research on First Nations history and contemporary issues. It includes references to relevant materials in our various collections and links to information presented on our website. These are cited as documenting First Nations history and culture in general, and the evolution of UBC’s relationships with First Nations in particular. They include archival materials in all media (textual, photographic, audiovisual, and digital), websites, and Internet-based collections and related resources.

The focus of this compilation is on research materials held in the University Archives. Researchers are advised to consult with staff in other Library branches, such as Rare Books and Special Collections and Xwi7xwa Library, regarding materials in their collections.

This list is not intended to be fully comprehensive, but will serve as an introduction for researchers. Patrons researching specific individuals, groups, or events may find information in other collections and resources maintained by the Archives but not listed here. Archives staff are available to suggest other avenues of research and otherwise provide assistance.

Thanks to Ann Doyle and her colleagues at Xwi7xwa Library for their guidance in compiling this list.

This year the University of British Columbia marks the 100th anniversary of its opening for classes and research in 1915. To help commemorate the centennial, the University Archives has undertaken several social media initiatives utilizing its extensive historical collections. The most recent such project has been to set up an account on the photo-sharing social media site Flickr.

The Flickr account for UBC Archives was established in February 2015 to promote both the centennial and the University Archives’ historical resources by featuring a selection of photographs from our collections. The “ubcarchives” photostream features those images that we feel best document various facets of UBC’s history, including student life, prominent administrators and faculty, the built environment, important events, and the University’s relationship with the broader community.

Selected photographs are uploaded as high-resolution scanned digital images in either TIF or JPEG format. Metadata for each image are derived from the textual descriptions of each image presented in our existing UBC Archives Photograph Collection. Each image is “tagged” with UBC-related subject headings, such as “Main_Mall”, “Basketball”, and “Graduation”. Those images showing a recognizable geographic location are linked to the Flickr “Map” feature. The entire Flickr collection is organized into “Albums” based on broad categories such as “Students”, “World War I”, and “First Nations”.

Our photostream is not intended as a replacement for our existing on-line digital photograph collection, hosted by UBC Library’s Digital Collections. In that database, more than 40,000 digitized images and associated metadata are administered in-house as part of a very rich collection of digitized resources unique to the University. Our Flickr account is primarily intended to showcase the best of our photographic holdings and promote the University’s centennial year to the world-wide Flickr audience.

The ubcarchives photostream was launched with 100 images. In the coming months we will continue to add more images that we feel effectively document the history of our University.

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