Author Archives: Heather Gordon

iPRES International Conference on Digital Preservation 2018

Last fall I was able to attend iPRES, the International Conference on Digital Preservation. This was the 15th time the conference has been held, and the first time it has been in North America since 2015. The 2018 conference was held in Boston from Sept. 12-16, 2018. Previously it was held in Kyoto;  the 2019 conference will be in Amsterdam.

Plenary Keynote speaker Eve Blau” Photo credit: Martha Stewart. (some rights reserved: CC BY-SA 2.0)

The conference brought together 421 attendees from thirty-two countries, including scientists, archivists, librarians, and other professionals from disciplines that have an interest in preserving digital information over long time spans. The interdisciplinary approach of iPRES is valuable in digital preservation. Digital preservation is not a problem unique to archives. An interdisciplinary approach lets smaller communities, such as archives, to find out more about how larger communities, often with better resources and larger research budgets, are addressing problems of a similar nature. Continue reading

100,000 digital objects now online

Late last week, our digitization efforts reached a significant milestone:  we now have over 100,000 digital objects available online for your use and re-use!

Screenshot of Browse Digital Objects result on

Screenshot of Browse Digital Objects result on

We’ll be featuring some of the new content in future blog posts, but here are some examples of what’s been added recently: Continue reading

Association of Canadian Archivists Conference 2015

In June, I attended the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) annual conference in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Hotel Saskatchewan

The venerable Hotel Saskatchewan, site of the 2015 ACA conference

The Association of Canadian Archivists is the national professional organization for archivists in Canada outside of Quebec. Here are some highlights of this year’s event.

TAATU – the technology unconference

If you’re into tech, one of the best parts of any ACA conference is The Archives and Technology Unconference (TAATU). Hosted by the Technology and Archives Special Interest Section (TaASIS), TAATU is laid-back and designed to be non-intimidating for non-techies, but it also has its serious side, perhaps this year more so than others. As more and more Canadian archives adopt AtoM as their holdings management database and experiment with its sister product, digital preservation system Archivematica, TAATU has become a valuable venue for sharing information, including success stories and lessons learned, for both open source products. Continue reading

A new “Through the Lens” at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre

John Atkin and Michael Kluckner have curated two new “Through the Lens” shows for the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s digital Planetarium Star Theatre. Using historic photographs from the early 20th century paired with contemporary shots of the same locations, these “indoor” digital walking tours allow you to experience the changes that have occurred in our city over the past 100 years.

The Canadian Fishing Co. Ltd. and New England Fish Co. building on the Gore Avenue Wharf, 1920. Reference Code: AM54-S4-3-: PAN N163

The Canadian Fishing Co. Ltd. and New England Fish Co. building on the Gore Avenue Wharf, 1920. Reference Code: AM54-S4-3-: PAN N163

The historic images come primarily from the Archives’ W. J. Moore panorama negatives, which we’ve featured here before. Remarkably, the Space Centre uses the same high-resolution JPG images that you can download from our online search and projects them to fill the dome of the Star Theatre. They are matched with stunning modern panoramas and other audiovisual elements to produce two unique shows. This year, there will also be some historic aerial views which, on the planetarium dome, promise to provide a unique, if dizzying, perspective on the city.

Aerial view of Kitsilano Beach and Park, 1945 Reference code AM54-S4-: Air P28

Aerial view of Kitsilano Beach and Park, 1945 Reference code AM54-S4-: Air P28

Last year, Through the Lens: Building Vancouver’s History, was so popular it sold out and was repeated earlier this year. Don’t miss your chance to see this year’s shows!

7:00pm Thursday, November 13 (Michael Kluckner)
7:00pm Thursday, November 20 (John Atkin)

Tickets available at the door

Friends’ Fall Fundraiser: Vancouver—An Ever-changing City

Please join us on October 22nd at 7:00 pm at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre for “Vancouver—An Ever-changing City,” a fascinating virtual walking tour of Vancouver then and now, and a chance to support the work of the Archives.

Andy Coupland and John Atkin will explore the changing nature of the city through before-and-after images selected from the blog Changing Vancouver and the Archives’ holdings. Set against the background of selected historic panoramas, they will take you through a hundred or so years of development, displayed on the dome of the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre’s Star Theatre.


West Cordova Street – east from Cambie. From “Changing Vancouver”

Sponsored by the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives, the event is the Friends’ annual fall fundraiser. Founded in 1993, the Friends have played a key role in promoting the Archives and raising funds for various projects. Among their most notable purchases:

  • The first web publishing software that allowed the Archives to make its database searchable on the Web
  • The dye-sublimation printer that for years produced 8×10 photo reproductions of images in the Archives’ holdings
  • A portion of the cost of the Archives’ cold storage facility (for preservation of deteriorating photographic negatives)
  • The lease of an early public-use photocopier for the Reading Room
  • Indexing of Major Matthew’s’ 7-volume Early Vancouver
  • Reproduction of damaged Vancouver City Directories

Most importantly, since 1999, the Friends have received over $98,000 in provincial gaming grants to allow the Archives to describe and digitize images in its holdings. They have contributed over $90,000 of their own funds to the program, as matches on the applications. Tens of thousands of the images you see on the Archives’ website are there due to the generosity and fundraising efforts of the Friends. These include photographs by Williams Bros. Photographers Ltd., Stuart Thomson, James Crookall, John Davidson, and over 18,000 of the images collected by Major Matthews.

Net proceeds of ticket sales and all donations will go toward the Friends’ support of the Archives. We hope to see you at the event, and we sincerely thank you for your support.

Herstory Café: Women and Rodeo

October is Women’s History Month and we’re celebrating by hosting a Herstory Café on October 2nd from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. Bring your Stetson and enjoy Mary-Ellen Kelm’s illustrated talk on “Frontier Femininity: rodeo cowgirls in B.C.” Dr. Kelm is the author of A Wilder West, Rodeo in Western Canada and teaches history at Simon Fraser University.


UBC Press, 2011

The event is co-sponsored by the Friends of the Vancouver City Archives and Simon Fraser University’s Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.

Herstory Café has been presenting accessible and thought-provoking public events on women’s history topics since 2007. We hope to see you here for an evening of cowgirl culture and great conversation.

Boxes and More Boxes: Constructing Safer Housing for Panoramic Glass Plate Negatives

This post was written by Kathy Kinakin, one of our volunteers.

What to do when set to the task of rehousing of 335 17.8cm x 43cm panorama glass plate negatives stored in the drawers of a filing cabinet? The negatives are part of the Stuart Thomson fonds. Thomson was active as a commercial photographer in Vancouver for several decades in the first half of the 20th century. The negatives are large, very fragile and heavy, and because of their unusual size, the solution isn’t as easy as putting them in standard archival envelopes and an off-the-shelf archival glass negative storage box. In this case, a custom-made housing was necessary.

The glass negatives as they were stored in the drawers of the filing cabinet. Photograph by Kathy Kinakin.

The glass negatives as they were stored in the drawers of the filing cabinet. Photograph by Kathy Kinakin.

Glass plate negatives are normally safest when housed in envelopes and placed upright on their long edge in a storage box, as this protects the delicate surface of the negative from pressure. The size and weight of these negatives meant that only 7-10 of them could be put in a single box before it became too heavy to handle. A box like this would be quite thin and very unstable when sitting on a shelf so this was not a practical option. A larger, more stable box with spacers to securely hold the negatives could be used, though with the number of negatives needing to be housed, this wouldn’t be an efficient use of space. With all of this in mind, I decided to build a custom sink mat for each negative, and a custom clamshell box for a group of mats. Continue reading

Exploring Vancouver’s fast food past

This post was written by Christine Hagemoen.

As a volunteer at the Archives, I was recently tasked with sorting through boxes that contained display materials and photo enlargements from previous Archives exhibits and displays (pre-Internet days). The object was to find interesting content for possible Authenticity blog posts. One of the boxes was marked “Diners” and as a food history buff I was immediately intrigued. Curiously, the box only contained two photo enlargements. I was immediately drawn to this image of the White Lunch from 1918.

White Lunch Ltd. No. 4, 806 Granville St. Vancouver, B.C., 8 Mar. 1918. Stuart Thomson, photographer. Reference code: AM1535-: CVA 99-5167

White Lunch Ltd. No. 4, 806 Granville St. Vancouver, B.C., 8 Mar. 1918. Stuart Thomson, photographer. Reference code: AM1535-: CVA 99-5167

The photograph shows the rather elegant interior of the White Lunch including customers, servers, menu and prices. In 1918, you could get a bacon & egg sandwich for 15 cents, oyster stew for 25 cents, and a hot clubhouse sandwich for 35 cents.

My curiosity was piqued, so I decided to search the Archives’ database for more images. I started by using the subject term “Restaurants, diners, lunchrooms, etc.” to find out what and where Vancouverites were eating in the 20th century. Continue reading

Day of Digital Archives 2012

It’s the Day of Digital Archives again! We’re featuring a glimpse at what a few of our staff have been doing for our digital archives program.

Glenn Dingwall is working on the Archives upgrade from Archivematica version 0.8 to version 0.9. Archivematica is one of the core components of our digital archives. When the Archives accepts a transfer or donation of digital material, Archivematica is the software package used to examine files to determine what they are, to produce preservation copies in file formats that are suitable for long-term access, to make access copies that are suitable for providing on our website, and to package the access and preservation copies together with metadata that explains what they are so that people in the future will be able to read and interpret them.

One of the changes that will happen when we move to Archivematica 0.9 is that it will now be hosted in a virtual machine environment within the City’s network. This will have a number of advantages over our current local area network setup, by making it easier for us to maintain and update the software, enabling Archivematica to communicate faster and more reliably with other components of our digital archives (such as our search software and storage environments), and allowing us more flexibility in apportioning processing resources to different tasks.

We are planning to go from a bare-metal development network . . .

. . . to a more powerful and complex virtual system.

Continue reading

National Archival Development Program Elimination

We were dismayed to learn of the federal government’s April 30th decision to severely cut the budget of Library and Archives Canada and to eliminate the National Archival Development Program and the body that administers it, the Canadian Council of Archives.

NADP funding has helped the Archives describe and digitize many photographs like this one from the Jack Lindsay Photographers Ltd fonds. Reference Code AM1184-S1-: CVA 1184-3225

The CCA supports a network of archival institutions and advisory services across the country and has played an integral part in the development of Canadian archival standards and in the support of the development of all the provincial and territorial online archival databases across the country (BC’s is MemoryBC). It brings the latter together under Archives Canada, the national database of archival descriptions. These databases were built on and are supported by NADP funding, as are numerous archival and preservation advisory services in the provinces and territories. Continue reading