This week, we thought that we would post on the Ridington Room, a room in the Barber Centre that is not named after a place in British Columbia.

Photo courtesy of UBC Library Graphics, and created under a Creative Commons License

Rather, the Ridington Room (room 321)  is named after an important person in the history of the University of British Columbia Library: John Ridington.

Photo courtesy of the UBC Archives. UBC Archives photo #1.1/1510

John Ridington was UBC’s  first University Librarian. A former journalist and teacher, he started work on the library collection in August 1914 when UBC was in its temporary home at West 10th Avenue and Laurel Street (the Fairview Shacks).  By 1916, he had been appointed University Librarian, a position he remained in until his retirement at the age of 72 in April 1940. According to information gathered by the UBC Archives, Ridington was known as a rigid authoritarian and was nicknamed ‘King John’.

In the former Main Library, there was also a room named after Ridington. Photo courtesy of UBC Archives. UBC Archives photo #76.1/22

The University Archives is responsible for collecting material related to the University and, therefore, holds the papers of John Ridington and his family. If you are interested in learning more about the life of UBC’s first University librarian, take a look at the finding aid (“an aid for finding items in an archival collection”) to the collection that is available on the University Archives website.

The Ridington Room is definitely worth a visit if you haven’t already had the oppportunity to see the space. It is often called the “Harry Potter Room” by students, due to the winding staircase and the portrait-covered walls. A portrait of John Ridington, painted in 1912 by his brother-in-law Malcolm Charleston, hangs in the Ridington Room.

Photo courtesy of UBC Library Graphics, and created under a Creative Commons License

There is also a magnificent art installation by Vancouver artist John Nutter, who was commissioned by Jean Barber to to design a 45-panel glass sculpture that is intended to “flow like the Northern Lights,” and features intricate etchings designed around a series of compasses. Nutter felt the Library, like a compass, should be used “as a tool of discovery.”   It is an ideal space for quiet study, but be sure to arrive early because the comfortable chairs fill up quickly!

Photo courtesy of UBC Library Graphics, and created under a Creative Commons License

Happy new year, and welcome back to Rare Books and Special Collections’ series of blog posts featuring places in British Columbia based on the room names in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

Our featured place for this post is Lillooet, which was founded as “Mile 0” on the Cariboo/Barkerville gold rush wagon trail.  Located 340 km northeast of Vancouver, Lillooet is included in the traditional land of the St’at’imc first nation. After the Gold Rush period, the main industries in Lillooet were centered around the railway, ranching, farming and forestry.

Our featured documents are three photographic postcards from the B.C. Historical Photograph collection at RBSC. This collection can be searched through the Archives, Bibliographies and Reading Rooms section of the library catalogue, or on the RBSC site.

Kelly's Lake, P.G.E. above Lillooet, Cariboo Trail

Kelly's Lake, P.G.E. above Lillooet, Cariboo Trail ID # BC-366

All three photographs were taken by the photographer Arthur Phair, and depict scenery around Lillooet, views from the Pacific Great Eastern Railway… and Lillooet’s first truck!

Looking east, Lillooet, B.C., winter, 1916-17

Looking east, Lillooet, B.C., winter, 1916-17, ID # BC-522

Lillooet's first truck

Lillooet's first truck, ID # BC-1802

According to Camera Workers of British Columbia, Arthur Phair was a commercial photographer active in Lillooet from around 1920-1933. Camera Workers of British Columbia is a great (and free!) resource for identifying photographers in B.C. from 1858-1950.

In the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, the Lillooet room (#301) is part of the Chapman Learning Commons. This beautiful room is a favorite for conferences and meetings.

Lillooet room

Photo courtesy of US Mission Canada and used under Creative Commons license

Interesting Lillooet fact: Lillooet’s Bridge of 23 Camels, opened in 1981 and named by contest, is named after 23 camels brought to B.C. during the gold rush period to use as pack animals. Sadly, the camels’ soft feet were not suited to the rough wagon trails, and they were reportedly stinky and difficult to manage. Most were subsequently abandoned to roam the B.C. wilds before succumbing to cold winters or hunters.

A small collection of drawings and paintings from turn of the century Vancouver has been recently catalogued at Rare Books and Special Collections. The Albert Lindgren fonds contains 37 small watercolour paintings and 9 drawings, dating from ca. 1900-1903.  The paintings and drawings mostly depict Vancouver-area waterfront views, as Lindgren was a ship captain.

Archives will often collect works of art which document a specific place, culture or time period.  In the era before photography became so commonplace, a sketch or painting may be one of few records of what a place or landmark looked like. For example, the image below is an early depiction of the original Prospect Point Lighthouse in Stanley Park, before the seawall was built.

View of Prospect Point lighthouse

View of Prospect Point lighthouse, ca. 1900

On the other hand, sometimes a lack of contextual information or notes by the creator leave you wondering what it is exactly you’re looking at. For example, the image below: given the content of the rest of the collection, this is very likely a waterfront scene in the Vancouver area. Possibly it’s Coal Harbour- if you think you know, leave a comment or email us at and let us know!

View of waterfront buildings, possibly Coal Harbour

View of waterfront buildings, possibly Coal Harbour, ca. 1900

For a large Canadian documentary art collection, much of which can be viewed online, check out Documentary Art at Library and Archives Canada.

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

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