I recently came across a small batch of letters while I was looking for something else. The letters, described as PR-1615, were to Matilda John of Victoria. They were written to her in 1899 and 1900 by her young boyfriend Harold Penn Wilson as he traveled from Victoria to Bennett and later Atlin. Wilson worked for the Merchants Bank of Halifax and had been sent to their new office in Bennett. The letters are mostly interesting in how they describe the journey from Vancouver to Bennett, and what it was like to live in the North at the turn of the century for a young bank clerk. But there is also some gentle romance; Harold asked Mattie for a lock of her hair and claims that he is wearing her “badge”. Harold was 19 and Mattie was about 16.
Harold and Matilda never married, he eventually married someone else in Prince Rupert, and died back in Victoria in 1975. I haven’t been able to find out anything about Matilda. There is a photograph of a Matilda John in our portrait files which may be her. She is dressed in what looks like a nurse’s uniform.
Matilda kept the letters and they made their way to the Archives at some point. They are quite fragile so they have been digitized by the Preservation team and now anyone can read them by clicking on the letter showing in the description and downloading the pdf file.
Last year I came across an interesting document. It is a Memorandum of Cooperation between British Columbia and the State of Washington and was signed in July 1972 by Premier W.A.C. Bennett and the Governor of Washington, Daniel J. Evans. It is a simply written two-page document outlining the desires of both parties to protect the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia, Puget Sound and their adjacent waters from oil spills.
The document came to the BC Archives in 1973, from the Office of the Deputy Provincial Secretary and had been stored offsite with just a control number.
I rehoused it and made a descriptive record and recently our preservation team scanned it at my request. Now anyone can read the document by clicking on the image and downloading the pdf, GR-0160
Along with some 1977 photographs of oil spill experiments, it offers a glimpse into some of the prevailing issues in that decade.
Don’t say that too quickly.
I recently enjoyed looking through an old photograph album that was given to the Provincial Library and Archives in December 1937. The album was donated by Major Harold Brown, Managing Director of the Union Steamship Co. Provincial Librarian W. Kaye Lamb noted that the photographs were probably taken around 1924-1925.
We don’t know why Brown created the album, maybe it was useful to have photographs of the Union Steamship Co. ships (and others) to hand when doing business.
Over the years we have scanned about 147 of the 250 photographs in the album. They can be viewed online with their description MS-3079.
I am interested in the ones that show some kind of port activity like this one of the tug Helac and the Kaga Maru at what looks like the Vancouver Harbour.
But this one is quite sad, it’s the Toyama Maru in Vancouver Harbour. Twenty years later it would be sunk by the USS Sturgeon, killing over 5000 Japanese soldiers and sailors.
Saturday was International Archives Day. This year’s theme is Governance, Memory, and Heritage. It’s a broad subject, but it really covers the essence of what we do.
Part of my job involves giving tours of the BC Archives, often to groups of people that have never used an archives or considered doing archival research. In my 10 minute “Archives 101” introduction I start with one of the main tenants of why we keep records: because archives are a mainstay of democratic governance. Embedded in democracy is the right of the people to access information about themselves and their government. In theory we keep about 5% of all the records created by government, but that small percentage should capture the good stuff: decision making documents, policies, annual reports, and other summary records that illustrate what a particular government office was doing at a moment in time.
Government records are great for giving an overview of society, but they can be somewhat dry – and so much of society operates outside of government. For this reason, the BC Archives long ago adopted a “total archives” approach, seeking to fill in the gaps in the record by acquiring the records of individuals, families, businesses, and organizations whose impact was provincial in scope. Of course, deciding what records fit this mandate is subjective, and institutional interests or priorities can be evident in collecting practices over time. Ensuring that the spectrum of humanity and experiences in BC are reflected in the archives is a challenge, and we must continually evaluate the work that we do, recognizing that there will always be silences in the record, and that often what we don’t find in the archives is as important as what we do find.
One thing you can be sure to find in the archives is variety. From the people and the places described, to the format that the information is found, there is more to the archives than most people expect. A record is any recorded information: textual (written records), cartographic (maps, plans, architectural drawings), audio-visual (sound recordings and moving picture recordings), graphic (photographs, paintings, drawings and prints). For International Archives Day, we wanted to highlight a few of our diverse collections. But how can we choose among the thousands of series? I’ve selected a few today, but the @BCArchives twitter account will continue to highlight our records by tweeting a “Featured Collection” twice a month from now on. Although some of what we share may have restrictions on access, we hope they give a sense of the fascinating information found in the stacks at the Archives!
GR 3571 – Premier’s Correspondence. 131 m textual, photos, audio, ephemera. These records cover the period from 1974 to 2008 and document ordinary peoples’ reactions to “hot topic” issues of the day such as old growth forestry logging, RCMP officers wearing turbans, the tainted blood scandal, and government funding of AIDS medication. Included are some children’s letters and art from school groups. This collection is may have some restrictions on access.
PR-2086 Philip Borsos fonds. 22 metres of multimedia material including film reels, magnetic tracks, optical tracks, optical discs, video reels, videocassettes, audio reels, audio cassettes, audio compact discs, photographs, technical drawings, maps, prints, production boards and computer disks. Borsos was a filmmaker with a career spanning 1970 – 1995. The film projects chronicled include the documentary shorts “Cooperage”, “Spartree”, “Phase Three”, “Nails”, and “Racquetball”, and the features “The Grey Fox”, “One Magic Christmas”, “Bethune”, and “Far from Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog.” The fonds also includes Borsos’ journals and miscellaneous personal papers.
GR-3377 – Provincial Archives of British Columbia audio interviews, 1974-1992. Consists of 440 sound recordings. The series consists of oral history interviews recorded by staff members and research associates of the Provincial Archives of B.C. Major subject areas include: political history (especially the Coalition era, the W.A.C. Bennett years, and David Barrett’s NDP government); ethnic groups (including Chinese- and Japanese-Canadians); frontier and pioneer life; the forest industry; B.C. art and artists; the history of photography, filmmaking and radio broadcasting in the province; and the history of Victoria High School. This is one example of many oral history collections at the Archives!
GR-0419.34A – Attorney General documents, 17 (1887). 235 pages. File includes correspondence and other records relating to the so-called “Kootenai Uprising.” Records describe the dissatisfaction of the Ktunaxa with their assigned reserve lands; the accusation of two Indigenous men of murder, followed by the arrest of one called Kapla, and his subsequent escape with the assistance of Chief Isadore; and the deployment of the North-West Mounted Police, led by Sam Steele, to the region. Of particular note is a verbatim transcript of a speech delivered by Chief Isadore in July 1887.
PR-1380 – Frederick Dally fonds. 7 cm of textual records, 466 photographs, 1 map. Frederick Dally was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England in 1840. He arrived in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1862, on the China Clipper “Cyclone.” In March 1864, Dally leased a store at the corner of Fort and Government streets, and in 1866 he opened a photographic studio in Victoria. Between 1865 and 1870, he took extensive photographs around Vancouver Island and in the Cariboo District.
Last summer I worked with some really interesting records that illuminated the “Home Front” situation in British Columbia during World War 2.
Activity, particularly in the realm of Air Raid Precautions (ARP), was a curious mixture of official and civilian partnership. In 1942 Premier John Hart formed the Advisory Council, Provincial Civilian Protection Committee to assist and advice the official Provincial committee in the organization of air raid precautions in the province.
The Advisory Council took on a lot of administrative work in distributing grants to BC communities to buy equipment, train volunteers and disseminate information.
The records of the Committee are with the BC Archives and are described as GR-0268. Last year I found three boxes of missing records and added them to the series. The series description can be viewed here.
The records are open for access but are stored offsite so can take a few days to bring in.
There are also some photographic records created by the Advisory Committee which I had a lot of fun working with. One series, GR-3644, consists of 77 b&w photos of ARP activity. Our preservation unit has scanned these so they can now all be viewed online.
Some of my favourites include I-78009 (children learning to use respirators), I-78029 (volunteers receiving training), I-78002 (recruiting poster) and I-77973 (gas decontamination crew during practice)
Image I-03188, Aerial view of new Archives building, ca. 1977. “Spirit” in pond.
In 1965 the Department of Public Works began to build the complex known as Heritage Court at the corner of Government and Belleville Streets in Victoria. Heritage Court was built using Federal and Provincial Centennial funds to provide facilities for both the new Provincial Museum and the Provincial Archives of British Columbia.
Early in the planning stage it was decided that the site should contain works of art by British Columbia artists done in the general design theme of “Man and Nature”. A sub-committee chose 28 works including screens and murals, carved wooden building doors and massive works of sculpture.
Four of the exterior sculptured pieces still stand today and I am lucky enough to be able to see one of them from my office window.
This piece is called “Spirit” and it was created and cast in bronze by Elza Mayhew in 1964. It was displayed at the Venice Biennale in the Canadian Pavilion and then made its way back to British Columbia via exhibits at Ottawa and Prince Edward Island.
I haven’t been able to track down exactly when it was finally installed in the Archives pond, but it was probably around 1971.
Before reaching the pond, “Spirit” spent some time in Elza Mayhew’s studio and was one of her many pieces that provided the basis for a paper rubbing. The rubbings were done by Isamu Akino, a Japanese artist who created them by laying pieces of wet Japanese paper on the front, back and tops of the sculptures. The paper was then formed around the relief portions of the sculpture and rubbed with charcoal or some other agent, to produce a raised paper cast. Once dry, the paper rubbing was mounted onto a paper and wood frame.
We were recently lucky enough to acquire a mounted rubbing showing the front view of “Spirit”. This generous gift from the Mayhew family has given us a new view of the beautiful bronze sculpture more than 50 years after its creation.
My colleagues Kay (Preservation Specialist) and Cindy (Exhibit Fabrication Specialist) have designed and created a special padded aluminum rail and clip system to safely hold the work in the art vault.
I have described the rubbing as PDP10261 and you can see it in the BC Archives collections search here:
Here are some more examples of Corporate Christmas cards taken from 920334-0001 (Vertical files).
This one is from the Bank of Montreal in Nelson, B.C. The front of the card consists of the Bank of Montreal coat of arms but inside there’s a charming woodcut print showing Arthur H. Buchanan striding manfully through the snow to help bring the Nelson branch of the bank to the people.
Next is a beautiful colour drawing of a BC Hydro generating station. I can’t tell if this is taken from a real site or if it’s more of an artist’s representation of what the new BC Hydro sites were going to look like. The card is signed by Hugh Keenleyside for BC Hydro and Power Authority and is dated 1968. Perhaps this generating station was intended for the High Arrow Dam near Castlegar? Since the dam was later named the Keenleyside dam, it’s seems fitting.
Update January 19, 2016:
My colleague Dennis Duffy pointed out that this is actually the Gordon Shrum generating station at the W.A.C. Bennett dam. An Ottawa Citizen news story from last year has a nice photo, see http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Gordon+Shrum+generating+station+Bennett+capable+generating+megawatts+electricity+peak+capacity/10862165/story.html
Hugh Armstrong of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway sent this next card to the Press Gallery. The image on the front of the card seems to suggest that the PGE was a real people’s train, connecting with those living in the hinterland, especially at Christmas.
And finally a local Victoria bookstore sent out some lovely Christmas cards that also worked as an advertisement. Included in each card was a piece of history, a page from a real book to enjoy at your leisure. The Haunted Bookshop moved from Victoria to Sidney a few years ago and it’s still a charming place to visit.
At this time of year we often receive Christmas and other holiday cards from banks, shops, newspapers and other businesses.
The BC Archives is lucky enough to have a nice little collection of Christmas cards mostly saved by the local journalist and historian James K. Nesbitt. These cards lived for a time in our vertical (clipping) files. When the files were microfilmed in the 1980s, material not suitable for filming was removed and some of that material ended up in a box of files that we have saved in container 920334-0001.
There are some good examples of Corporate Christmas cards in the files and I’ve scanned a few to show the range.
The Vancouver Sun cards from the 1960s and 70s were quite inventive. I like this one, partly because the RBCM has a Jack Harman sculpture on its premises but also because it’s just an amusing image. The Sun’s publisher Stuart Keate had a whimsical sense of humour and he sent Nesbitt quite a few interesting cards.
Here’s one from the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Victoria, probably from the late 19th century. The outside is elegant and plain but inside you can see the list of staff, perhaps in order of rank, as well as a photograph of the inside of the bank. They didn’t quite grasp the concept of laying out a card with all the elements oriented in the same direction or maybe the printer was rushed.
Another one from the 19th century. I’m not sure what business this card represents because there is nothing on the back. It’s on a small sturdy piece of card, perhaps intended for use as a beer mat after the holidays…
More Corporate cards to come.
THE VICTORIA GAZETTE 25 November 1858 p.1
LETTER FROM NEW FORT LANGLEY.
Installation of the Government of British Columbia.
New Fort Langley, 20th November 1858.
Editors Gazette: – Yesterday, the birthday of British Columbia, was ushered in by a steady rain which continued perseveringly throughout the whole day, and in a great measure marred the solemnity of the proclamation of the Colony. His Excellency, Gov. Douglas, with a suite comprising Rear Admiral Baynes, (commanding the naval forces on the Pacific Station) Mr. Cameron, the respected Chief Justice of Vancouver Island; Mr. Begbie, the newly appointed Judge of British Columbia, Mr. Lira, and others, proceeded on board H.M. ship Satellite, Capt. Provost, on Wednesday morning by the Canal de Haro to Point Roberts, where His excellency remained during the night. On Thursday morning His Excellency and suite were conveyed by the Hudson Bay Company’s screw steamer Otter to the Company’s steamship Beaver, which was lying moored within the mouth of Fraser river. Both vessels then proceeded in company as far as Old Fort Langley, where the Otter disembarked a party of eighteen sappers under the command of Capt. Parsons, who immediately embarked in the Recovery revenue cutter, joining the command of Capt. Grant, R.E., who had previously reached the point with a party of the same corps. Both these gallant officers have recently arrived from England with small parties of men under their command. The Beaver then proceeded with His Excellency aboard to New Fort Langley, where preparations were made for the ceremonial of the following day.
On Friday morning, the 19th inst., His Excellency, accompanied by his suite, and received by a guard of honor commanded by Capt. Grant, disembarked on the wet loamy bank of the Fort, and the procession proceeded up the steep bank which leads to the palisade. Arrived there, a salute of 18 guns commenced pealing from the Beaver, awakening all the echoes of the opposite mountains. In another moment the flag of Britain was floating, or to speak the truth, dripped over the principal entrance. Owing to the unpropitious state of the weather, the meeting which was intended to have been held in the open air was convened in the large room at the principal building. About 100 persons were present.
The ceremonies were commenced by His Excellency addressing Mr. Begbie, and delivering to him Her Majesty’s commission as Judge in the Colony of British Columbia. Mr. Begbie then took the oath of allegiance and the usual oaths on taking office, and then, addressing His Excellency took up her Majesty’s Commission appointing the Governor, and proceeded to read it at length. Mr. Begbie then administered to Governor Douglas the usual oaths of office, viz.: allegiance, abjuration, &c. His Excellency being thus duly appointed and sworn in, proceeded to issue the Proclamation of the same date (19th instant) viz.: one proclaiming the act; a second, indemnifying all the officers of the Government from any irregularities which may have been committed in the interval before the proclamation of the Act; and a third, proclaiming English Law to be the Law of the Colony. The reading of these was preceded by His Excellency’s Proclamation of the 3rd inst., setting forth the Revocation by Her Majesty of all the exclusive privileges of the Hudson Bay Company. The proceedings then terminated. On leaving the Fort, which His Excellency did not finally do until to-day, another salute of 17 guns was fired from the battlements, with even grander effect than the salute of the previous day.
On leaving the river side, in front of the town, a number of the inhabitants were assembled with whom His Excellency entered into conversation previous to embarking on board the Beaver, and by whom he was loudly cheered in very good style as he was on his way to the steamer. VIATOR
As you may already have discovered, advanced search is not just an upgraded basic search. Basic search has features which are lacking in advanced search and which may make it a preferred option depending on your search and on your display preferences.
Basic search is accessed from the search box (shown below) found on the top right hand corner of almost all the search pages.
Advanced search is accessed by clicking on the link below the basic search box (see above) and looks like this.
WHAT DO THEY HAVE IN COMMON?
When you enter more than one term into a search box, be it the basic search box or one of the advanced search boxes, the terms are searched separately, i.e. only one of the terms needs to be present in the record descriptions, although they may contain more than one or even all of the terms. This is a default OR search. To require that all terms be present the AND operator must be used between terms. For an exact match (phrase search) use quotation marks.
Boolean operators within a search box must be in uppercase: AND, OR, NOT. Complex search logic can be used in any search box, basic or advanced, as well as wild cards (* and ?).
Other than the Identifier field in Advanced Search, it does not matter whether upper or lower case, or both, is used.
Only one filter in each filter category can be selected.
Fifty (50) record descriptions per page are displayed. The bottom of each page, if there are more than 50, shows what range of record descriptions is being displayed.
When an individual record description is clicked the full display is the same regardless of whether basic or advanced search is used.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES?
•Cannot search specific fields – all searchable fields are searched
•Cannot limit search to a specific material type (e.g. textual records, graphic material [visual records], moving images) – all material types are searched
•Type-ahead feature shows possible matches, including those in the Names, Places and Subjects lists.as well as in the descriptions, with the option of selecting one of the matches by clicking on it. (Note: currently this does not always work for the Names, Places, and Subjects but it can be useful to see what comes up.)
•Can search by one or more pre-defined fields, e.g. Title, Name, Identifier, as well as all fields, i.e “Any field” which functions the same as a basic search (note: some searchable fields can only be searched in an “Any fields” search, e.g. the General notes field.)
•Can limit search – before it is executed – to a specific level of description, to a specific material type, and/or to descriptions with digital images attached (see Filters below).
•Filters only display after a search is executed, and provide a breakdown by name, with the number of search results each is linked to.
•Clicking on a filter automatically limits search results to those meeting that criterion. Clicking on a filter in another category automatically further limits the search results.
•Can limit to top-level descriptions regardless of level (everything that is not linked to a higher-level description such as fonds, series and even some items) as well as by specific level.
•Can filter by name of creator (top 10 only).
•Can set search filters before a search is executed as well as after a search but must click on Search button to redo search.
•Cannot limit a search to top-level descriptions as a category. Clicking on the box shows a drop down list of mostly fonds and some series descriptions.
•Filters are by type. A drop-down list of all possible options is displayed for each category. Clicking on an option may yield zero results.
•There is no post-search breakdown by for each category type.
•Search results can be limited to descriptions with digital objects attached.
•Subject, name and place are search fields rather than filters.
•The total number of results is displayed at the top of each display page, together with the search term(s) and the number of digital objects with an option to display only the digital objects, as shown in this example.
•No print icon on results page but can use browser print function.
•The search box(es) with search term(s) and logic display at top of the search results on each results page.
•The total number of search results only displays if there are more than 50 hits, i.e. more than one page. This displays at the bottom of the page.
•A print icon appears on the results page.
WHEN TO USE BASIC SEARCH AND WHEN TO USE ADVANCED SEARCH
I find the basic search useful when I am interested in a breakdown by description level to get a sense of the number of higher or lower level record descriptions and quickly view the results for each level. The same applies, to a certain extent to the people, organizations, subjects and places involved. However, since only 10 are displayed, if there are more than 10, those of interest may not display.
The type-ahead feature can also be useful in seeing what pops up in terms of possible search terms.
The results display shows me right away how many results there are and how many have digital objects attached. At the moment this means primarily images but textual records, sound recordings and video is also being added. If the number of images in the filter column (Media types) is less than the number of digital objects, clicking on the images filter will quickly bring them up.
I use advanced search for the following types of searches:
I am looking for something very specific and searching by field(s) will eliminate irrelevant results, e.g. a certain television episode such as the Webster episode on the archives. A basic search on WEBSTER AND ARCHIVES produces 1300 hits (the same number of results as an Any field search) whereas limiting webster to the Name field and archives to the Subject field yields one.
I am looking for only certain material types, e.g. sound recordings or moving images.
I want to limit my search to only higher level descriptions (usually the series level to access the pdf finding aid found in many series level descriptions) or to only item or file level descriptions.
I am searching by call/catalogue (aka Identifier) numbers and don’t want to be bothered to enclose them in quotation marks, especially if there are more than a few. I also only want the highest level description, not all the lower level descriptions which are produced when a basic search is executed, e.g. the latter yields over 3000 hits for a search on “gr-1372” while an Identifier search on GR-1372 yields only 1 record, the series level description with the finding aid.
Ultimately the search method choice is up to you and what works best for the kind of searches you are doing. For more information about basic and advanced searches see the Search Guide.
Some 20 years ago the BC Archives launched its first remote electronic access to information about and images of its historical visual records. Searchable textual records descriptions and vital records indexes were subsequently added, as well as a library catalogue, sound recording descriptions, moving image descriptions and a cartographic records catalogue. The site was expanded and upgraded in 2002 but ultimately it began to show its age and limitations. Technology had advanced and it was decided that a new collections management system and online interface were not only desirable but necessary.
Now the “blue and white” search site that has served researchers around the world almost as long as Internet Explorer has been around, and longer than Google, is being retired, having hung on long enough to see its successor launched. Our tech people are surprised that the UNIX server it lives on has lasted this long. As of today, when you try to access the old site you will be redirected to the new search site. It is far from perfect, but so was the old site, especially in its first few years. Please be patient and give it a chance and if you have questions or comments do not hesitate to contact us.