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.
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
After two terms at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, I was lucky to spend twelve beautiful summer weeks in the care of the Archives with my co-intern Cristen Polley.
Ah, the Archives! Shelves of ancient, crumbling volumes disappearing into shadowed heights, honeycomb walls of coiled scrolls, one skeletal, omniscient archivist-monk carrying a lantern… I can imagine hypothetical archivists and conservators cringing in horror. If you’ve read as many fantasy novels as I have and have been afflicted with similar fantasies/nightmares, I can assure you that the inside of the modern archives is much more sensible altogether, all uniform rows of acid-free boxes, labeled and ordered. Dust is out, HVACs, environmental standards and lint-free gloves are in. The labyrinthine memory of the mortal archivist is vastly improved upon by systematic arrangement and archival description databases. Gothic architecture or no Gothic architecture, in the archives—the real archives—there is still a sense of awe in the presence of the remains of history, an awareness of its fragility before the ink-fading, data-corrupting streams of time.
Records from the Victorian Order of Nurses. Photo by Cristen Polley.
Earlier this summer, archivist Chak Yung showed us to the boxes of unprocessed records we would spend the next month with, closely examining, analyzing, inventorying, describing and rehousing in archival-quality containers. Based on study of the records, we would reconstruct the lives of the records’ creators, their activities, and the logic of their recordkeeping system for future researchers—not always a straightforward task, since most of us don’t organize or label our files with their eventual comprehensibility to total strangers in mind. Continue reading
Since I began my archival studies degree, I have been keen to get some hands-on experience. This summer, the City of Vancouver Archives took me in for a three-month internship.
On my first day, archivist Chak Yung introduced me to fourteen boxes of records from City Stage Theatre, which I would process over the next month. I was fortunate to be assigned a fonds with a diversity of materials. The City Stage fonds includes textual records (such as correspondence and play scripts), newspaper clippings, promotional materials (such as colorful handbills, posters, and programs for plays), stage plans, Playhouse magazines, reel-to-reel audio tapes, and approximately 500 (mostly professional black and white) photographs.
A sample from the City Stage Theatre fonds – Playboard magazines, reel-to-reel audio tapes, box office reports, and sheet music from a theatrical production. Photograph by Mel Leverich.
It was a pleasure to be assigned to the City Stage Theatre fonds, as it documents a fascinating part of Vancouver’s theatre history. City Stage Theatre was a professional theatre company based in Vancouver that operated from 1972-1986 and was founded and managed by Ray Michal, a passionate advocate for theatre in this city. In its early days, the theatre was located in a converted donut shop at 591 Howe Street where they offered short shows over the noon hour for the downtown business crowd and local residents. As Michal explained in an interview, “we wanted to break some of the preconceived notions of what going to the theatre was all about … You could just walk up to the shop, and buy an hours’ worth of theatre. Just like you could walk up to the deli and get yourself a corned beef sandwich” (AM1560-S6-F50). Continue reading
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
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
My summer internship at the City of Vancouver Archives was filled with wonderful experiences along with the occasional adventure, so much so that it has taken me a while to catch my breath and finally write about it. As a student in the Master of Art Conservation program at Queen’s University, the Archives fostered an ideal learning environment for a conservator-in-training to reinforce the skills acquired through the past academic year. I was fortunate to learn from not one but two experienced conservators. Working under the supervision of Sue Bigelow and Rosaleen Hill, the Digital Conservators at the Archives, I had the privilege of taking in a double dose of valuable knowledge.
The Award of Merit 1943, one of the many spectacular works of art found in the Archives. This image consists of merged photographs of the parchment before (left) and after (right). treatment.
Kaitlin Haley began volunteering at the Archives in the summer of 2012. After completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at UBC in history and political science in 2010, she worked as a flight attendant, taking a break from school and deciding on a graduate studies program. An interest in archives and libraries lead her to us. Like many of our other volunteers, Kaitlin has given of her time generously elsewhere including lifeguarding for the World Police and Firefighter Games, running activities at the Musqueam Reading Club and facilitating and helping to organize events for the Beauty Night Society.
Kaitlin at UBC holding her B.A.
After being accepted to several archival and library schools across Canada, Kaitlin chose the program farthest from this coast, Halifax. She will be earning a Master of Library and Information Studies at Dalhousie starting in 2014. Her choice to defer for a year will allow her to continue working for the UN as a flight attendant. Between stints in Africa, which she is currently visiting, we hope Kaitlin will find some down time to visit us before she goes jetting off again! Continue reading
As a student in the Master of Library and Information Studies degree at UBC, I never thought that I would get the chance to work in an archives, so when the opportunity came up I jumped at the chance. My professional experience project at the Archives was to catalogue the preservation and conservation collection that was housed in the Archives lab. Although it may not seem obvious, the Archives has a small library of books and journals, which is used by archives patrons in the reading room and by Archives staff. The collection includes items that are of interest to people studying the history of Vancouver and the local industry and culture as well as professional materials for both the archival and preservation staff. It was my pleasure to work with this fascinating collection of books and serials.
Books on the shelf with Library of Congress bookmarks ready for labeling. Photo by Allison Hasselfield.
Posted in People
Sean DeMaio volunteered for us for three months in the fall of 2012. In this short period of time, he spent 100 hours at the Archives while still working at the Women’s Health Research Institute at the Research Branch of BC Women’s Hospital. Sean holds a Master’s degree from SFU in Health Policy, where he researched recruitment incentives of physicians in rural BC for his thesis. This led to his involvement in several interesting health research initiatives, such as doing research and writing a report showing the cost effectiveness of live music therapy for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Health research work provided experience with data analysis and information management which is what Sean would like to refocus his career on. Volunteering at the Archives was a first step and getting a Masters of Library and Information Studies degree will be the next.
Catalogue card drawer CANADA A to CHI – conquered by Sean!
The City of Vancouver Archives was kind enough to adopt me as an intern this summer. Never before has twelve weeks passed by so quickly! During my time at the Archives, I had the pleasure of dabbling in a number of aspects of archival work, including some unexpected outreach work acting as a researcher in the Archives’ new instructional video.
Rachel hard at work as Researcher #1 in the Archives’ 2012 how-to video. Still from video.
Artistic expression aside, I can now proudly say that I have processed a group of records from start to finish, appraising, selecting, arranging and describing the records of Richard Dopson, a prominent member of the Vancouver gay community and an important individual in the development of gay sports in the city. Organizing the records created over the last 30 years of passionate involvement on the part of Mr. Dopson was no small task! Vancouver hosted the Gay Games in 1990 and Dopson was co-chair of this international event. Continue reading
There are a number of things which bring joy to an archivist’s heart: the tactile pleasure of (carefully!) handling an old and worn ledger, the completion of a meticulously-filled spreadsheet of file and item descriptions, rows upon rows of immaculate Hollinger boxes, and trays of homemade treats in the office. However, as an intern at the City of Vancouver Archives over the summer, I came to learn that it is often the many large and small discoveries which occur in the process of archival work that end up being the most gratifying and memorable experiences.
Kevin Owen with Major Matthews and Jack the Cat. Photograph by Rachel Sim.
Some of these discoveries are of the dramatic variety, such as when you are removing a piece of art from a frame for rehousing, only to find that the backing board in the frame is in fact a painted photograph from the 1890s. Continue reading