Happy Holidays

The Archives will be closed from noon December 22 to 9am Wednesday, January 2, 2018.

Front of card

This greeting card “wishing health, joy and wealth be unto you” is from the Lorne Brown fonds. Just who the “broadcaster” was is uncertain, but the delightful colours and message ring true this time of year.

The matching textured envelope with block printing inside the flap is a wonderful added touch to this charming circa 1930 card.

With contributions by Bronwyn Smyth.

Legacy Open Data Sets Now Available

We’re very pleased to announce that legacy versions of the City’s open data sets are now available through our online database.

The City of Vancouver’s Open Data Catalogue has its roots in the “Open3” motion (Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source) passed by Vancouver City Council in 2009, which declared the City’s endorsement of the principles of open and accessible data, including the free sharing of data with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions without compromising privacy and security. Part of the City’s response to the motion was the launch of the Open Data website in September 2009. In 2011, the City of Vancouver was recognized by BC Business as the Most Innovative Organization in BC for the open data initiative.

The City’s Open Data Catalogue at vancouver.ca/opendata, accessed 2017-11-24

British Columbia’s strong and growing open data community uses raw City data, alone or in combination with data from other sources, to identify, analyze, and present solutions to challenges facing citizens of Vancouver and BC. The data sets on the Open Data Catalogue are updated on an ongoing basis (the refresh rate varies across sets). Recognizing that retaining historical data would enable the community to identify trends and changes across time, resulting in richer analysis of civic issues, the Archives began to grab snapshots of the datasets – first semiannually, then quarterly – in order to preserve the overwritten data sets and make them available to the public. Continue reading

On the house history hunt for 2116 Maple Street – Part 1: Fire Insurance Maps, Water Service Records and Building Permit Registers

House history research is one of the most common reasons people find their way to the Archives. As such, we thought it would be helpful to write a series of blog posts on the type of resources we have to help in the quest. To illustrate the process, I have chosen a house located at 2116 Maple Street to research. This post will introduce the fire insurance maps, water service records, and building permit registers in the Archives’ holdings.

I begin my search by starting with the fire insurance maps.

Bound volume of Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Atlas

Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance maps or atlases were created as a way to quickly appraise the risk and distribution that architectural and environmental factors posed should a fire break out. The first Vancouver fire insurance atlas was produced by the Charles E. Goad Company in 1912. Charles Goad also created the system of partial revisions, allowing for multiple corrections slips to be printed on one page, cut out, sent out to the underwriters, and finally pasted over the area of the map requiring updating. This decreased the need for printing completely new editions each year, thus making updating the maps economical. Consequently, the later fire insurance atlases (Map 599 and Map 610) include a date range, rather than one specific year. By 1975, due to company amalgamations and the changing needs of the insurance industry, fire insurance maps ceased to be produced.[1] Continue reading

SAA 2017 Annual Meeting – Alike/Different

Last July, I was among the many archivists who, seduced by legends of the land of milk and honey food trucks and microbreweries, braved the Oregon Trail to attend the 2017 Society of American Archivists conference in Portland OR.

The Oregon Trail – video game version

The first half of the week was taken up by a two day workshop on arrangement and description of digital archives, led by Carol Kussman (University of Minnesota Libraries) and Chris Prom (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). This was an excellent opportunity to assess our current practices at the Archives, to measure the maturity of our own digital preservation program against other institutions of different scales and to get an idea of how we rate relative to other programs. The workshop was very popular – SAA ultimately expanded the number of seats available due to the demand. Continue reading

Vancouver property tax records to 2005 now available at the Archives

We are pleased to announce that after a significant transfer of records from the Revenue Services Department, the Archives can now make available property tax records up to 2005.

Map of assessment wards in the Municipality of Point Grey, with proposed changes, ~1927. Reference code: AM1594 : MAP 360

Unlike the majority of our previous holdings, these records are microfilm of tax statements (sometimes referred to as the tax roll), rather than assessments. However, the tax statements include the assessment information acquired from the BC Assessment Authority, one of the source data sets for the calculation of property taxes.

We have an almost-complete set of tax statements for the years 1976 to 2005 (1991 has yet to make its way to us), and the records include a variety of indexes that provide entry points to the records, which are organised by Tax account number. Continue reading

Hugh Pickett Gala

The Friends of the Vancouver City Archives with the support of Famous Artists, is hosting the Hugh Pickett Gala, Monday, October 16, 2017, at the Sylvia Hotel. It will be an evening filled with live music, bubbly and hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, and illustrated presentations. Funds raised at this event will go towards the processing and digitization of  long-time Vancouver impresario Hugh Pickett’s records. The records were recently donated to the City of Vancouver Archives by Gordon Boyd, Hugh’s life partner.

Hugh Pickett at home. Reference code pending

The Hugh Pickett fonds is vast and colourful, filled with theatre programmes, scrapbooks, event files and photographs emanating from Hugh’s long and rich career in the entertainment industry. The event files include documentation from an array of touring artists and entertainers ranging from pop singers to comedians, circuses to dance companies, classical and opera performers to country artists. Many of the photographs are of early Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) productions, as Hugh was one of the creators of TUTS. Although not directly related to Hugh’s career, there are rare Spitfire Fund scrapbooks included in the fonds from when his mother was involved with the fund in Vancouver.

Some of the Theatre Under the Stars programs. Photo by Heather Gordon

With a successful fundraising effort, we anticipate being able to make the records available to the public in mid to late 2018 and to have a portion of the photographic materials digitized and available online (as rights permit).

A small portion of the 1000+ photos in the fonds. Photo by Heather Gordon

Tickets are $50 per person, purchased via Eventbrite. The gala runs from 7:00 – 9:00 PM, on Monday, October 16 at the Sylvia Hotel (1154 Gilford Street).

Dress code – dress cool, for as Hugh would say, “Tuxedos are for waiters.”

Hugh with material promoting some of his shows. Reference code pending

Habitat Forum photographs now online

Thanks to funding from the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives and the generous support of a private donor we are pleased to announce that over 6,800 photographs showing the 1976 Habitat Forum are now available online.

Habitat Forum compass rose painted on the Jericho Wharf by Lenore Barron and Frank York. Reference code: AM1671-: CVA 395-05267

Habitat Forum took place at Jericho Beach Park from May 27th to June 11th, 1976. It was a conference/exposition that happened in conjunction with the “official” U.N. Habitat conference. According to the Habitat Forum program, found in the Archives’ United Nations Conference on Human Settlements fonds, “Habitat  Forum is the collective name for the non-governmental activities related to Habitat: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.” Entry to the “official” UN Habitat conference was limited to government delegates, selected NGO officials and press. The Habitat Forum provided a space for members of the public to engage with the conference and monitor the U.N. sessions via closed circuit television remotely from the Forum site. Continue reading

Vancouver’s unbuilt leisure palace

While working on rehousing some of our map collection, I recently came across drawings from one of the more interesting unrealised development projects in the city’s past: a winter swimming pool and leisure complex proposed for English Bay in 1920.

Public natatorium and concert hall, English Bay (Sharp and Thompson, in conjunction with A.S. Wootton, 1920). Reference code: VPK-S98: LEG1969.09

For over a century, English Bay beach has been one of Vancouver’s most popular playgrounds. English Bay has always attracted waterfront development, and in the early years, privately-built and operated bathing houses, as well as residences, lined the shoreline. Continue reading

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference 2017

In early June, I attended the annual Association of Canadian Archivists conference in Ottawa. The theme was Archives, disrupted – an exploration of “how archivists and archival institutions progress, respond, change and persevere in response to disruptive forces, which may arise from outside or can be self-imposed” (from the conference program, which can be found here). Here are some of the highlights.

Rideau Canal, Ottawa. Photo by Michel Rathwell (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

LINKED DATA AND THE SEMANTIC WEB

In keeping with the conference theme, sessions addressed a variety of emerging and potentially disruptive issues in the archival field, and explored the challenges and opportunities that might arise. Continue reading

Preserving the City’s website with Archive-It

We are pleased to announce that we have begun preserving and providing access to crawls (snapshots) of the City’s website using Archive-It, a web application developed and managed by the Internet Archive. Archive-It uses an open-source crawler called Heritrix to crawl specific web content based on instructions provided by the user (in our case, that’s us), and the venerable Wayback Machine to provide access. Over time, the preserved crawls will show how the City’s website has changed in terms of content, look and feel.

vancouver.ca today

How it works

Each crawl directs Heritrix to one or more “seed” URLs, which you can think of as the starting points of the crawl. From each seed, Heritrix browses through all links and saves any content it encounters that falls within the scoping rules for the crawl. Crawled content is saved in the WARC file format, an ISO standard for storing web content. Continue reading