Digitizing deteriorating negatives safely

This is the first in a series of posts on the 2018 Steffens-Colmer Studios and Don Coltman Company Photographs Digitization Project, funded by the British Columbia History Digitization Program.

We are working on a project to digitize thousands of negatives created by commercial photographer Don Coltman. His photographs are all public domain copyright, cover a wide variety of subjects, and will be freely available for use once the project is finished. These negatives are made of rapidly deteriorating cellulose acetate, which is a health hazard. They are stored frozen to keep them from deteriorating further. We had to develop a way to digitize the negatives that would be

  • safe for our staff (reduce their exposure to a hazard) and
  • safe for the negatives (reduce their time out of freezer storage)

Eric Vale. July 1949. Photographer Don Coltman. Detail from Item Identifier : CVA 586-8194.

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Hugh Pickett fonds now available!

Thanks to the generous attendees of the Hugh Pickett Gala in 2017 and the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, we are pleased to announce that the descriptions for the Hugh Pickett fonds are now available and searchable online.

Hugh Pickett was born and raised in Vancouver. His first job was as an usher at the Colonial Theatre in 1928 – he always had a love for show business. He later worked for Dingwall Cotts Steamship Co. and served in the Canadian Army as the secretary to Brigadier Langdon out of an office in the old Vancouver Hotel.

Portrait of Hugh Pickett in 1943 (from scrapbook). Reference code: AM1674-S8-F09

In 1950 Pickett, along with Holly Maxwell, took over Hilker Attractions and re-named it Famous Artists Ltd. Pickett was Company Manager from 1947 until 1964. Famous Artists Ltd. was “an artistic management enterprise dedicated to sponsoring appearances by artists and by ballet and theatre companies in Vancouver and Victoria.” Known as Vancouver’s impresario it is no surprise that Pickett’s records are peppered with names and photographs of local, national and international celebrities and artists. Continue reading

2010 Olympic Torch Relay Photographs Now Available

The Archives is pleased to announce that over twelve thousand photographs from the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay (OTR) – showing virtually every torchbearer that participated in the relay – have been processed and are now accessible through our online database. These photographs are part of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) fonds, donated in 2010, and may be used for any fair dealing purpose.

The Olympic Torch Relay Route

The OTR took place from October 30, 2009 to February 12, 2010. Beginning in Victoria BC, it covered more than 45,000 km across all thirteen provinces and territories before returning to Vancouver 106 days later. Over 12,000 people carried the torch across Canada. Continue reading

Merging Time: Past & Present Combined

Merging Time, an exhibit created by the students of Langara College’s Professional Photography program, has returned to the Archives gallery space. It is an exhibit that merges a photograph from the Archives holdings with a newly-shot image of the same scene. This year, there are nineteen of these past-and-present combined images adorning the gallery walls.

Archives photograph selected by Luc Frost for the Merging Time exhibit. Hastings Street looking towards Cambie Street intersection, ca. 1913. Reference code: AM1376-: CVA 220-10

Digital composite by Luc Frost incorporating Archives image AM1376-: CVA 220-10

The creation of the merged images may look effortless and seamless, but don’t be fooled. The first challenge for these students is finding the locations from which the original photographs were shot. Getting a new shot with their dSLR cameras from the same perspective can be tricky, as buildings, construction, or other barriers that didn’t exist in the past may block or obscure today’s views of the original scenes. Even the height of the original photographer can make getting a similar shot a challenge. Continue reading

Periodicals from the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives collection now available!

Back in May we announced that longtime LGBTQ2+ community archivist and activist Ron Dutton had donated his entire collection, known as the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives, to the City of Vancouver Archives.

Since then, we’ve been hard at work getting the collection processed and available to researchers. Subject files have been available since the summer, and we’re delighted to announce that the Periodicals series is now fully processed and available in the Reading Room. The series contains a broad range of titles ranging from community magazines and newspapers to newsletters, activity and event guides, comics and zines, representing a diverse spectrum of LGBTQ2+ experiences.

Detail from back cover of an issue of Faggo Punk & Queer Zine, 2000. Reference code: AM1675-S2-F536

The earliest publications in the Periodicals series date from the 1950s and were all published in the United States by early LGBTQ2+ rights organizations. Titles include The Mattachine Review (published by the Mattachine Society), One (published by ONE, Inc.), and The Ladder (published by the Daughters of Bilitis). Continue reading

Vancouver Elections: New Video Wall Show

With the 2018 civic election set for October 20, and advance polls October 10-17, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to search through our holdings to see what election-related material would make an interesting and new video wall show. As the official repository for the City’s records of archival value, our holdings are rich in election-related material. These records give insight into how Vancouver and its electoral system has developed and changed throughout the years. The changes range from who could run for election, and who could vote, to frequency of elections, to the abolishment of the ward system, to what topics ruled the various plebiscites in a particular election year. A sampling of these records–photographs, posters, maps, and other visually interesting textual records–has been captured in the latest addition to our video wall shows: Vancouver Elections.

Council room at City Hall, ca. 1910. Reference code: AM336-S3-2-: CVA 677-82

The invention of photography preceded the incorporation of Vancouver in 1886, which means that there are photographs of the first elected city officials, including the first mayor, and the first City Hall in our holdings. Later photographs capture significant milestones in Vancouver’s political arena. A photograph showing Helena Gutteridge, the first woman elected to City Council, taking her oath of office in 1937 represents one of these milestones. Continue reading

Our First City Archivist – Major J.S. Matthews

There is never a day that passes at the Archives when we don’t mention Major Matthews’ name or appreciate his legacy. While he was very much a man of his time, the fruits of his efforts to document and collect the historical records of Vancouver’s development form the cornerstone of our private-sector holdings, and the importance of his role as advocate for their continued care and preservation cannot be overstated.

The Archivist at Work – Major Matthews, 1941. Reference code: AM54-S4-: Port P567

Born in Wales, September 7, 1878 and educated in Auckland, New Zealand, Matthews headed for North America at the age of 20 to make his fortune, landing in San Francisco. Moving up the coast he made brief stays in Tacoma, Seattle and Victoria, before making Vancouver his permanent home. Continue reading

Strathcona redevelopment files easier to find in the Archives

The Archives’ on-going inventory project has revealed some gems, including records that would be well served with enriched metadata in our AtoM database. This blog post focuses on one such body of records: appropriation and demolition files from the City’s Strathcona redevelopment projects of the 1960s. These records form part of the Property Division series COV-S305 Redevelopment files subsequent to the 1957 Vancouver Redevelopment Study.

City of Vancouver redevelopment : project 2, part of area “A”. Reference code: COV-S305: LEG1353.03

The above key plan shows the various redevelopment sub-areas in Project 2 and Project 1, which were spread across Strathcona. The bounded and numbered areas on the map above denote the various sub-areas for Project 2; the shaded areas are the sub-areas for Project 1. The detail below shows the pre-demolition land configuration of Project 2, sub-area 6, and Project 1 sub-area 3 as of August 1963. These properties were purchased or appropriated, and the buildings demolished, in order to construct the Maclean Park housing project. Continue reading

Tea, Talk and Treats: An Exclusive Summer Evening in Vancouver’s Chinese Garden

The City of Vancouver Archives is the repository for the early records of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society and on July 5, at 6pm, the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives is hosting an evening entitled “Tea, Talk and Treats: An Exclusive Summer Evening in Vancouver’s Chinese Garden” at the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Friends of the Vancouver City Archives invitation for the July 5th event

The event will support the Archives’ digitization work and will offer Chinese tea and pastries, a presentation given by Professor Alison Bailey regarding the traditional concepts and artistic and poetic representations of the Chinese garden, and a tour of the Garden led by docents that will highlight the Garden’s architectural and horticultural elements.

The records held by the Archives were donated by the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden Society in 1991, 1992, and 2011. They span from 1981-2009, with the majority from 1981-1991, and consist of approximately 1700 photographs, 22 videocassettes, 139 architectural drawings, 1 technical drawing and 2 maps. Continue reading

BC Gay and Lesbian Archives donated to the City of Vancouver Archives!

We are thrilled to announce that the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives, a collection established and maintained privately from 1976-2018, has been donated in its entirety to the City of Vancouver Archives.

Anti-violence rally, 1979. BCGLA Photographs series

The BC Gay and Lesbian Archives was established in 1976 by Ron Dutton, an active, longtime member of the Vancouver LGBTQ2+ community who is also trained as a librarian. For over forty years, Dutton acquired and described records, photographs, periodicals, ephemera, and audiovisual materials of significance to the LGBTQ2+ community in Vancouver and British Columbia, and provided access to these materials from his home to hundreds of researchers. Concerned with the future of the BCGLA as he ages, Dutton donated the entire collection to the City of Vancouver Archives (CVA) in February 2018. Continue reading