This year, we received funding from the B.C. History Digitization Program to digitize more maps and plans from our holdings. The maps need conservation work done to them before they can be digitized. Here’s an example of a map that had an unusual old repair.
Back of map, close-up showing old repair. Item No. LEG1153.367
This is one sheet from a set of Point Grey sectional maps from the 1920s. The map is 2.8m long, printed on cloth and has several tears at one end. A very long time ago, probably in 1929 or soon after, someone repaired it with cheesecloth, paper and glue, and later with adhesive tape.
The repair paper caught my eye. Once it was removed, I took a closer look. It was made of blank ballots!
Patch material from back of map.
The questions on the ballot identified it as the second page of the money ballot from May 15, 1929, which we have as part of the City of Vancouver Record of Elections.
Second page of money ballot from May 15, 1929. Reference code COV-S37– Container 87-G-1 vol. 2.
Today’s equivalent of the money ballot is the capital plan borrowing questions section of the modern ballot.
Since the original map was created by the Municipality of Point Grey, and the repair pages are 1929 City of Vancouver ballot papers, it seems likely that the maps were received during the process of amalgamating Point Grey and Vancouver (along with South Vancouver) in 1929. The repair was probably made by someone in the City of Vancouver who needed to use the map. Amalgamation included coordinating the street grid and street naming.
The map was repaired and the torn end now looks like this:
Front of map after treatment, detail of one end.
This post is of special interest to the mapping community and may be too technical for some researchers.
We digitize all of our images—photographs, maps and text—as TIFF master files, which are processed through our digital preservation system and preserved in our secure digital storage. We have been making all our digitized images available to researchers in our online search in JPG format. It allows us to make high-resolution files available in a fairly small size so they can be opened and viewed quickly. The quality is good enough for most uses.
Clicking on this map image will bring up the high-resolution JPG version, which can then be downloaded. Note the usual descriptive metadata below the image.
The mapping community has told us that JPG files are not good enough for their use. TIF or PNG formats give the best results when manipulating files in mapping software. The original scanned files, without any compression artifacts, would be the most useful.
To support the use and re-use of these valuable resources by everyone, we’re making losslessly compressed versions of the original TIFFs of our scanned maps available for download. We’ve added a link to the TIFF of a map to our online search as part of the descriptive record for that map.
Scroll down the description to find the link to the TIFF on the City’s FTP site.
So that you can verify that the file downloaded correctly and completely, we’ve included the full file size and the MD5 checksum.
We’d like to thank City Information Technology, whose recent upgrade of the City’s FTP site made it possible for us to make the files available this way.
In the last couple of years, we’ve been replacing our old, analogue microform reader-printers with new digital microform scanners. We’d like to show you why researchers like them so much.
Microform workstation with Indus 4601-SL scanner.
Microforms still have to be used by researchers, as we have hundreds of reels of film and thousands of fiche and aperture cards. These new scanners provide fast and convenient viewing and saving of images.
The workstations can be used with many styles of microform and will also scan to file or scan to print.
The scanners will work with all these different styles and colours of fiche, aperture card and film.
The scanners produce crisp, high-resolution scans and will scan in colour, greyscale or bi-tonal. Images can be cropped and rotated. Scans can be saved in common formats like PDF or TIFF.
Screenshot from a fire insurance plan.
The workstations have a wireless internet connection, so saved scans can be sent through email or dropped into cloud storage, as well as copied to a flash drive. Note that if you keep a copy of a work that is under copyright to a party that is not the City of Vancouver, you are responsible for obtaining permission of the copyright owner for publication. You may use the copy for fair dealing purposes covered by the Canadian Copyright Act, such as private study.
The scanners are attached to 27” monitors to provide a readable full-screen view of maps, plans and other large-format originals.
If you have used one of our microfilm scanners, we’d love to hear your feedback!
You may have noticed that our SearchArchives database looks a little different. For example, the information for a full record is in a more compact form, reducing the amount of scrolling you’ll have to do.
Screenshots of identical dimensions show the dramatic difference. The old version is on the left and the new one on the right.
The software has recently been upgraded to version 2.1 of AtoM. Most of the changes in the updated version affect how things are handled behind the scenes. Besides the example above, there are other changes that affect users:
Improved search times. Updates to the search index have reduced the time it takes the database to respond to your search query.
Searchable subject and place terms. There is a search box that appears on the Browse Subjects and Browse Places pages that allows you to search for specific terms, rather than just browse them. Be sure to hit the magnifying glass symbol (indicated below) to search.
Search results for subject term “building*”.
Better list of search results. There has been a change to the results algorithm that will give you results in a slightly different order.
Results of searching for “dog”. The old version is on the left and the new one on the right.
We are anticipating further improvements to our SearchArchives database with the AtoM 2.2 release later this summer.
With funding from the City’s Chief Digital Officer and in collaboration with the City’s GIS and Open Data teams, there is now a Vanmap layer made from a mosaic of plates from Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Plan. You can find it in Vanmap’s Aerial Imagery category. The data has also been released as part of the City’s Open Data Catalogue. Cropping and georectification of the scanned images was done by McElhanney.
The Vanmap layer, zoomed to downtown.
What is Goad’s Fire Insurance Map?
The City of Vancouver, Vancouver Heritage Foundation, City of Vancouver Archives and Heritage Vancouver will host #HeritageReboot, a fun, hands-on free public event that combines modern technology with heritage conservation.
When: Saturday, May 23, 2015 from 1pm to 4:30pm
Where: Roundhouse Community Centre, Engine 374 Pavilion, 181 Roundhouse Mews (Corner of Davie and Pacific)
1 pm – Event launch followed by cake-cutting
1 pm – 4:30 pm – City of Vancouver Heritage Action Plan Open House
1:30 – 4:30 pm – Public welcome to experience and use the technology
2:45 pm – 4:15pm – Tours of Yaletown and Engine 374
The event will officially launch four initiatives that use digital technology to open up Vancouver’s heritage in new ways for everyone:
- The City of Vancouver’s new online platform for public nominations to Vancouver’s Heritage Register
- Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Site Finder, an interactive map showing over 2,200 sites listed on the Heritage Register. The tool is searchable, filterable and full of images and information about the sites
- The City of Vancouver Archives’ digital rendering of the important Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Plan. Newly added as a layer on VanMap, construction materials, building footprint, street names and addresses of the time are now easily discoverable.
- Heritage Vancouver’s Historic Building Permits Database, a searchable online database of over 32,000 transcribed pre-1929 Vancouver building permits
Everyone is encouraged to unearth the past with these newly created digital tools and use the information to nominate a site to the Vancouver Heritage Register using the new online platform.
The City of Vancouver will also be having its open house on the next phase of the Heritage Action Plan there throughout the afternoon.
Free tours will also be available in the afternoon, including:
- The Canadian Pacific Railway’s Two Yaletowns 1886-1887 and 1910-1914. Led by historian and author of the award winning book Vancouver: A Visual HistoryBruce MacDonald.
- City Building: Yaletown and its Neighbours in the Nineties. Led by former City Councillor and the current Director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University Gordon Price.
- A historic tour of Yaletown in French. Led by the President of the Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique Maurice Guibord.
- Tours of the Engine 374 Pavilion and the engine to mark the 128th anniversary of Engine 374 pulling the first transcontinental train into Vancouver. Led by The West Coast Railway Association.
We’ll have a detailed post about our initiative on May 21 to coincide with its public release. We hope to see you at the event on May 23.
We’ve made a group of zoning maps available online. These are frequently consulted by our researchers, so we’ve made them easily available to everyone.
March 1990 zoning map. Reference code PUB-: PD 2100.6.
The maps were published:
Created by the City of Vancouver Planning Department, the maps allow you to see the permitted uses of land over time. These maps are used as a first step for an environmental assessment of a site. They are also useful for those studying the history of urban planning.
Detail from March 1990 zoning map. Reference code PUB-: PD 2100.6.
Two of the maps include text explaining the zoning and its intended use.
Detail from verso of January 1998 map. Reference code PUB-: PD 2100.8-PD 2100.8.2.
Please let us know if you find these maps useful.
We have a very large and rare 1905 map in our holdings that was dirty and falling apart. Last year, we collaborated with the Land Title & Survey Authority of British Columbia (LTSA) and the BC Archives to conserve and digitize it. This is the story of why that conservation treatment happened and how it was done.
Low-resolution version of Map of New Westminster District, 1905. Reference code AM1594-: MAP 138. A high-resolution version is available from our online search.
The 1905 Map of New Westminster District is almost 1 metre wide and over 2 metres long. It shows District Lots and other divisions of land for all of Metro Vancouver and as far east as Hope. Continue reading
In nearly every case, “historical geodata” means a paper map. Digitizing that map gives us an image of a paper map. While an image can be useful, historical maps turned into actionable data are much more useful. Moving geodata from paper to electronic data can be complicated and involve many actions, including:
- Describe the map accurately, preferably using standard terms
- Digitize the map
- Georectify the digitized image (associate points in the image with their geocoordinates, for example, so that the image can be positioned on OpenStreetmap or Google Maps exactly where it belongs)
- Extract image features—such as polygons, text, or contour lines—as digital layers
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, flagship building of the New York Public Library. Photographer Sue Bigelow.
From November 5-7, 2014, I attended a meeting of 54 people from three continents at the New York Public Library called Moving Historical Geodata to the Web. This meeting, including expenses for attendees, was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. We were the only archives and the only Canadian institution represented. Continue reading
On January 1st, the copyright expired for some of our holdings: they are now in the public domain in Canada. Digital materials are no longer restricted to being viewed only at the Archives, but are available online to all. Here’s a quick look at some of the digital objects that have become easier to view and re-use.
Tattooed man pulling on rope, by Clixby Watson, 1950s. Reference code AM1562-: 72-633
Charles “Clixby” Watson was a British painter and illustrator. We don’t know if this was a work of imagination or modelled from life or why this was created. Continue reading