For over a century, there has been a rather curious and unique public lecture event happening every Saturday evening at the University of British Columbia (UBC).


From its humble beginnings in 1916, the Vancouver Institute (VI) has been holding free public lectures presented by locally, nationally and internationally recognized, distinguished scholars and notable industry professionals alike from UBC and beyond.


Spanning several decades now, the VI lectures’ collection (made available by the UBC Library in partnership with the VI) is steadily growing in cIRcle, UBC’s Digital Repository. This one-of-a-kind mixed collection of audio and video materials is a fine testament to the historical, scientific, technical and academic knowledge, expertise and wisdom accumulated by the VI speakers over the years.


The VI lectures’ collection is teeming with a wide range of scientific, archaeological and other intriguing discoveries to philosophical musings and historical biographies to politics, policies and opinions to advanced technologies in education, medicine, and just about everything else in between.


This treasure trove of knowledge consists of novel, creative and innovative ideas and notions to the hard-knock school of lessons learned through good (and, at times, not so good), old-fashioned trial and error. Since then, the array of topics presented by past and current VI speakers were, and still are to this day, all-engaging, funny, illuminating, candid and as inspiring as ever.


A round of applause is due to Green College at UBC for its administrative management of the VI lectures over the years and transferred seamlessly over to the new Global Reporting Centre on January 1, 2018.


Another round of applause goes to University Archives for digitizing the vast majority of the VI lectures, the individual materials are continuing to be digitized and made openly accessible in the VI lectures’ collection in cIRcle via UBC Library’s Open Collections portal.


While waiting for upcoming VI lectures, below are some past and present VI lectures to watch now online anytime and anywhere:


The next 50 years in engineering


Gold or dross — The romantic past and future potential of B.C.’s mineral wealth


The golden age of astronomy


Ecological reserves in British Columbia


An evening with Mary Hemingway


Life under the sun: The past and future of solar energy


Artists in medieval workshops


Observations and photographs


Virginia Woolf: a personal portrait


Einstein — the man and his work


The coinage of Athens and the ancient world


The mystique of the detective story


Byzantine archaeology: a city revealed


Leonard Cohen: “The only tourist in Havana”


Dogs and people: The history and psychology of a relationship


Dealing with SARS


Journey of the Blue Whale


Digital Dumping Ground : The Global Trade in Electronic Waste


The Human-Animal Bond : Our History With Dogs


Desert Dust and the World’s Environments


Hammering the Klavier : Beethoven’s Earthshaking and Bone-crushing Masterpiece


Media Ethics on the Digital Frontier


Bug Shells and Butterfly Wings : New Materials Inspired by Nature


Stroke : New Evidence on Prevention and Recovery


Cheap : The High Cost of Discount Culture


Let Them Eat Dirt : Raising Children With Their Microbes


Bee Time : What Can We Learn from the Demise of Bees?



From the Vancouver Sun
The Library's Digitization Centre has helped UBC and CiTR archive a collection of radio clips from the 1940s and onwards.
Learn how the BC History Digitization Program, the UBC Library Digitization Centre, the UBC University Archives have contributed to this project in this Ubyssey article.

Anne Lama, UBC Library’s Conservator (left) and Chelsea Shriver, Student Librarian, prepare for a book exhibition at Rare Books and Special Collections.
Credit: Martin Dee


Anne Lama may be a Conservator at UBC Library – but you could also call her the book doctor. “We have the same goal,” says Lama, comparing herself to a physician. “Preserve our patients from disease, and limit medication and surgery, if it is possible.”

Since arriving at UBC in 2013 after a decade-long stint at the National Archives in France, Lama has been developing a comprehensive preservation and conservation strategy to safeguard the Library’s vast physical collections. That’s no small task, given the challenges of working with finite materials. Paper and cardboard, after all, degrade. Leather covers dry out. Aging newsprint turns yellow and eventually disintegrates.

In response, Lama has been busy training staff across the Library system in preservation and mending techniques. She’s also worked with Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives to ensure a high level of collections care, and planned a range of public and staff-related activities to celebrate Preservation Week, an annual spring event. A top priority moving forward is the establishment of a conservation lab in Woodward Library.

“Anne’s contributions are already making a huge difference in terms of staff training, programs and the development of facilities for conservation,” says Alvan Bregman, Head of Technical Services.

The need to preserve collections for generations of scholars, researchers, students and lifelong learners also extends to the digital realm (indeed, managing collections in a digital context is one of the Library’s key directions in its strategic plan). Dizzying changes in formats and software can make it difficult to keep electronic assets – ranging from e-books to archival items – from disappearing into the digital ether.

In response, UBC Library began formulating its digital preservation strategy in 2011. Since then, it has worked with Artefactual Systems, a Metro Vancouver company, on an open source digital preservation system to help ensure that University publications, databases, theses, data sets and other types of digital collections endure.

The Library is also involved in other initiatives, including a collaborative project with Simon Fraser University and the University of Alberta that could lead to a Western Canadian preservation “backbone” and, ultimately, a national digital preservation network.


Join the conversation: The Library also depends on its users to help care for its collections. What steps can you take to ensure that Library materials are maintained for generations to come?

Rare Books and Special Collections service desk

Beginning next week, UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) and University Archives will have reduced hours.

Effective July 30 to August 31, RBSC and University Archives, on the first floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC), will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. This includes the Chung Collection exhibition, the special collections reading room (Rm 110) and seminar room (Rm 112), as well as the University Archives (Rm 118).

For questions regarding accessibility, please contact RBSC or University Archives

On May 30, a special ceremony was held during UBC’s spring congregation to recognize and honour the Japanese Canadian students whose university experience was disrupted in 1942 when they were uprooted and exiled from the B.C. coast – a violation of their citizenship rights.
Honorary degrees were conferred on the students who were unable to complete their education when they were sent to internment camps. Degrees were re-conferred on the students who completed their studies but missed their graduation ceremony because of the internment.

Part of UBC’s acknowledgement of what happened in 1942 includes a UBC Library project to collect and archive stories from individual students. The Library was involved in recording the students’ oral histories, which will be added to the holdings at University Archives.
Some of these oral histories were used to create the film A Degree of Justice: Japanese Canadian UBC students of 1942, which tells the story of six former UBC students. They recall growing up in Vancouver, attending UBC and coping with the many hardships caused by their removal. They also speak about UBC’s efforts to formally recognize and honour them. For more information and for viewing options, please visit A Degree of Justice.

The Library is also digitizing Tairiku Nippo, a newspaper documenting Japanese-Canadian life from the early 1900s until 1941, when it was forced to cease publication. This project honours the Japanese Canadian community, as the Nippo is an invaluable resource to those researching Japanese Canadian history, including community members hoping to learn more about their family histories. Visit UBC Library Digital Collections for a preview of the digitized newspaper.

Engineering cairn in front of UBC's Electrical Engineering building. Photo courtesy of University Archives, Image # UBC 41.1/1693

Three UBC campus landmarks are commonly referred to as “cairns,” and each has a unique history. Find out more in this Trek Online article, written by Erwin Wodarczak of UBC Library’s University Archives division.


William Tansley. Image: University Archives, George Van Wilby fonds.

A profile of William Tansley, who started as a janitor at UBC and helped establish what eventually became the Museum of Anthropology, appears in the Fall/Winter 2011 issue of Trek magazine.

This article was written by Erwin Wodarczak from UBC Library’s University Archives division.

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