BCGLA, Public History Initiative, and Queering the Archives

In May, I started an internship at the City of Vancouver Archives with the goal of supporting community outreach and engagement with the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives (BCGLA). This opportunity was provided through UBC’s Public History Initiative, which gives UBC students like myself an opportunity to apply academic skills outside the classroom and expand community engagement with history. Being both a history student and a member of the LGBTQ2+ community meant that this position held particular importance for me, and I had a passionate interest in increasing the visibility and public use of these holdings. 

Detail from Queer Visibility March, June 22, 1991). Reference Code: AM1675-S3-: 2018-020.1776
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Digitized photographs from the Hugh Pickett fonds now online!

You may remember our blog post from last October when we announced that the Hugh Pickett fonds was available to researchers in person at the Archives. Now, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, we are happy to announce that over 700 photographs from the fonds are now digitized and available online.

Hugh Pickett, ca. 1955. Reference code: AM1674-S9-F06-: 2014-089.0899

Hugh Pickett was best known as ‘Vancouver’s Impresario’. Pickett began his career working as a press agent for Hilker Attractions, and eventually ended up running the company with Holly Maxwell under the name Famous Artists Ltd. from 1947 until 1964. Famous Artists was an artistic management company dedicated to sponsoring appearances by artists and ballet and theatre companies in Vancouver and Victoria, and Pickett remained at the head of the company until he sold it in the mid 1980s.

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Archives Staff Share Their Spookiest Record Discoveries!

This year in preparation for Halloween, the Archives staff rounded up some of the scariest things they have seen come past their desks over the years. So relax, eat some candy and enjoy perusing these creepy, weird and fun items from our holdings!

Granville Street Bridge news clipping, 1940s. Reference code: AM54-S17-MS11740

Archival Assistant Kim Unruh shared a newspaper clipping she came across from the Major Matthews Newspaper Clippings Collection. The clipping shows a 1940s Granville Bridge witch, complete with traffic jam poem. Still relevant today!

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BCGLA Video and Audio now online!

The Archives is very happy to announce that over 150 audio and video files from the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives (BCGLA) are now available online. This could not have been possible without the funding received from the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS).

GIF comprised of stills from various BCGLA videotapes.

The BCGLA Audiovisual Recordings series consists of 43 audio tapes and 93 video tapes. The audio recordings include show tapes for drag performances at B.J.’s Club, various interviews for Angles, and Gay Games III coverage. The video recordings consist of drag events; fashion shows; made for television documentaries and specials; the Little Sister’s 2000 trial; and footage from various Pride Parades.

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Iron Work Detailing of Houses in Marpole

Thanks to local resident Flora Thompson, the Archives received a donation of over 400 photographs documenting the wrought-iron work and decorative designs of Vancouver residences. Thompson took these photographs from 1995 to 2003 and the images highlight a unique aspect and era of Vancouver building design. This same design aesthetic is reflected in Vancouver homes from a certain era beyond that of the Marpole neighbourhood.

Great star-like iron work on this house on Hudson Street. Reference code: AM1603-F1-: 2012-016.165

Iron work for the stairs, entryway, and front windows. Reference code: AM1603-F1-: 2012-016.348.1

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New Video Wall: Seasons

As summer turns over into autumn, we present a new video wall show in keeping with this theme: Seasons: Vancouver through the year.

Seed bed preparation, 1908. Reference code: AM505-S1-: CVA 660-688

The Archives’ holdings have a delightful number of photographs that relate to various seasonal celebrations and activities, which was the seed of inspiration for this video wall show. It begins with spring, moving through summer and autumn, and finishes with winter. The viewer will be treated to photographs of gardening, track and field races, soccer matches, lazy days at the beach, wedding celebrations, regattas, groups hiking, Thanksgiving feasts, children in costume for Halloween, and skiers eyeing up slopes. The earliest image showcased is the gathering of a crowd celebrating Dominion Day in 1878, with the most recent image over a hundred years later depicting crowds celebrating Chinese New Year in 1987.

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A Quick update: BCGLA photo identification

With LGBTQ2+ history month in October right around the corner, it is a perfect time to look toward the future of the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives photo identification project. With East Side Pride, the Pride Proclamation, and the Sunset Beach Festival, it was a busy summer for the Archives and we are excited for what the coming months will hold. Photo identification and community engagement are ongoing processes, and we have some exciting things planned for the fall to ensure that there is continued work being done with the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives. For now, we have a couple important announcements regarding the project.

Our busy booth at the Sunset Beach Festival. Photo by Heather Gordon

We are pleased to announce that our online tool for photo identification is up and running and can now be accessed here. This online mechanism provides instructions for how to browse and search the photos on the Archives’ website as well as tools to supply information and comments. Photo identification is fundamental for developing historical research on LGBTQ2+ history in BC as well as being important for the access, remembrance, and sharing of these photos within the community. We are hoping that this tool allows people to more actively engage with the BCGLA photo collection and have an accessible way to share their knowledge.

A visitor identifying people in our binders. Photo by Heather Gordon

We are also in the process of organizing a formal photo identification event later this fall. We will be putting on a large scale version of what we had at our Pride booths with even more binders and digital copies of the photos. We are excited for the future of the BCGLA and would love to hear from you if you have any insights on potential groups or organizations that would be interested in attending photo identification events or would like to be in touch with the Archives team.

If you would like to get more information on the photo identification tool or events, please feel free to send us an email at archives@vancouver.ca. You can also stay tuned on both Facebook and Twitter for updates regarding this event and other BCGLA news.

Vancouver Pride and the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives photo identification project

Pride season is in full swing in the city, including here at the City of Vancouver Archives! As a community partner for this year’s Pride, we have had an exciting month of sharing our LGBTQ2+ holdings at events and through new initiatives. 

First, thanks to support from the Vancouver Pride Society, we had a booth at East Side Pride on June 22nd. There, we shared just some of the 5,400 digitized photographs in the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives (BCGLA) collection, as well as information on our other LGBTQ2+ holdings. We loved meeting and hearing stories from the many community members who visited us!

Group gathered around East Side Pride Booth on June 22. Photo by Heather Gordon

We were also thrilled with the initial results of our photo identification initiative, which we launched at East Side Pride. The identification of people in photographs is an important part of completing the historical record, and has been the focus of many archives projects. Library and Archives Canada’s Project Naming, for instance, has had immense success since the early 2000s in identifying Indigenous people in archival photographs. Here at the City of Vancouver Archives, we’re reaching out to members of the LGBTQ2+ community for help in identifying people in the BCGLA collection. Of the more than 5,400 images that have been digitized, over 1,000 depict people who are currently unidentified. Identifying them will help to strengthen the collection, deepen knowledge and understanding of LGBTQ2+ history in this province, and ensure that community members’ voices and stories are heard and preserved for the future.

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BC Gay and Lesbian Archives photographs now online!

Thanks to funding from the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS), we are happy to announce that over 5,400 photographs from the BC Gay and Lesbian Archives (BCGLA) collection are now available online in time for Pride.

Fantasy and Freedom, Diana Rose does Diana Ross (1990’s). Reference code: AM1675-S4-F15-: 2018-020.3712

The BCGLA Photograph series contains about 7,500 photographs. There are a few photographs that date from as early as the 1890’s and continue until 2014. The photographs are arranged under file titles that reflect their subject matter.  Ron Dutton, who collected and maintained the collection for decades before donating it to the Archives, provided access to the photographs through this arrangement and we have maintained his order. The file titles include:  theatre, comedy, performance arts, dance, writers, artists, musicians, portraits, politicians, female impersonation, Stonewall Festival, HIV/AIDS, the Vancouver AIDS Memorial, political activism, Gay Games III, nightclubs, Vancouver Lesbian Connection, Vancouver Gay and Lesbian Community Centre, Vancouver Prime Timers, youth groups, leather community, First Nations, sports, Hiking Club, businesses, LGBTQ2+ community organizations, Vancouver Pride Festival and the Victoria Pride Festival.

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A summer of Pride with the City of Vancouver Archives

The Archives is very excited to be a community partner for Pride this year, and would like to thank the Vancouver Pride Society who has invited us to several events throughout the summer! First up, we will be at East Side Pride at Grandview Park from 11am to 6pm on Saturday June 22. There, we will be sharing some records and other materials from the LGBTQ2+ community’s past. We look forward to meeting the community outside the Archives’ walls and talking more about our holdings.

Dyke pride march, Feb. 22, 1992. Reference Code: AM1675-S4-F23-: 2018-020.4593

Our booth will have a selection of photos from past events, protests, and demonstrations, many of which took place in East Vancouver in the 1980s and 1990s. These demonstrations of solidarity, visibility, and strength were critical for the LGBTQ2+ community, and laid the foundations for present and future celebrations and resistance. We acquire LGBTQ2+ materials to preserve these stories for future generations, and ensure that BC and Vancouver queer histories are remembered and understood. Our presence at East Side Pride is part of our goal to make these records accessible to the public. Continue reading