Blog

Historical research, Newspaper research, Vancouver history

Vancouver Sun newspapers now searchable online 1912-2018

The Vancouver Sun’s ENTIRE newspaper run from 1912 to 2018 is now scanned & searchable online for the first time, at newspapers.com with over 1.5 million pages.

https://bit.ly/2DH3Gmu

It looks like there’s a 7-day trial, but local libraries *might* have free access for members using an Ancestry Library Edition, since Ancestry is the parent company for newspapers.com

\

Archives, Canada history, Historical documents, Historical research, Historiography, military history, Record keeping, Remembrance Day, social history, Women, women's history

Trying to study war no more

chessmen

 

Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One – the so-called war to end all wars. A senseless slaughter of young men on both sides, sent to fight from muddy, disease-ridden trenches, and told to wipe the memory from their minds after peace was declared and move on.

Yet the physical and emotional trauma those soldiers suffered followed them home after the armistice.  Many ended up in insane asylums or became burdens to their families for the rest of their lives, shunted off to a back room in the family home plagued by nightmares or strange mutterings, or drunkenness.  Even those who seemed to be doing alright walked the streets at night, unable to sleep because of their nightmares.

Broken lives. What we’d now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But those soldiers were told basically, to suck it up and forget their experience of war, and move on.

When I worked at the City of Vancouver archives, I got researchers looking into all kinds of things. Military units and people prominent in the armed forces. Evidence of women’s political groups or agencies or information about those working for suffrage, women’s rights, and equal pay.

And though there were a few documents scattered throughout the collection documenting  the issues or the people working for political and social justice, there were plenty of documents about the military and their people.

I encouraged those who wanted to unearth records about progressive history to look at what we had and try to read between the lines as to what wasn’t there or what was on the other side of the mirror. But that kind of research is harder and takes longer to do.

And often, these researchers were so discouraged by the lack of information about progressive movements that they resorted to the easy-pickings; the men, military, and marine records that have traditionally been abundant in archives. And the result?

The war records get used and studied and written about again and again.

And the documents kept coming in. Old women came to the archives from time to time, proudly carrying their brothers’ or father’s, or uncle’s, or husband’s personal records or war mementos, and offering them to our collection.

Yet they seldom brought in anything that would memorialize their own life’s work or passions. And when I’d ask them, they’d became self-deprecating, shake their heads and deny that they had ever done anything of lasting value.

Generally it takes a certain kind person or a certain kind of organization that, dare I say, has enough of an ego to think their actions and the documents that record them have historical value and relevance. And then think about bringing them into an archive to be preserved and made available to future historians.

Altogether, this makes it easy to see why many archival records are of a conservative nature. They’re more accessible, follow a familiar and logical organizational scheme, and pertain to institutions, organizations, and people who have access to funds and political power.

And that makes them easier to access and get funding to research and commemorate as well.

It’s a bit of a vicious circle.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

Seems promising but often isn’t – Diaries

diary

While doing your historical research in an archive, you might find a collection with a diary in it.

Not to be discouraging but proceed with caution!

A lot of the diaries that end up in archives aren’t the juicy, detailed, scandalous, social historical documents you read about in Jane Austen.

Instead, a lot of them are rather simple weather reports or statistical data tracking miles traveled in a day stops along a route, or something like that. Could still be useful of course.

Just warning you 🙂

Administrative records, Archives, Bradford, Historical documents, Historical photos, Historical research, Photos, Records management, Rio de Janeiro

The work and cost of photo preservation

old photos in drawer

The devastating losses at the national museum in Rio De Janeiro in early September reminded me of the sad state of the Bradford archives I visited in the spring, and the high cost of cultural preservation.

In Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of residents stood outside the shell of their national museum, crying and speaking of intense sadness at the loss which has been blamed on funding cuts in recent years that left the institution with few functioning fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.

The science and practice of conserving museum artifacts and archival records requires knowledgeable staff and expensive storage materials and facilities, an expense not well understood or obvious to the public, and so, easily cut from a budget line.

Documents and artifacts deteriorate at a surprising rate when temperature and humidity are not carefully managed, and in most archives, costly devices are installed to control these conditions and are checked and analyzed frequently.

Conservators working in museums and archives, use their extensive scientific training to tease out solutions to problems of deterioration of photos, paper documents, and other items to make repairs and halt the process of deterioration as much as possible.

Most archives also store documents in expensive acid-free folders and boxes to slow down deterioration of documents from acidity emanating from the paper itself and coming from the surrounding environment.

Some archival collections also hold images that exist only in the form of a glass negative, thick and heavy.  And, of course, fragile; requiring costly and specialized storage and handling conditions all their own.

I don’t know enough about the science to go into the details but I have seen the results and you have too, no doubt, in your own collection of old photos where the colour has washed out from age, or have gotten moldy and stuck together from being kept in a humid place.  Or on documents where the ink has faded altogether, making them virtually useless.

 

 

 

 

 

Aerial photos, Archives, Historical documents, Historical photos, Historical research, Photos

Aerial photos – what and where?

aerial view

When I had a business documenting the historical use of sites to identify possible contaminants in the soil or environmentally harmful activities, I always made sure to take a look at the aerial photos in the UBC Department of Geography Information Centre. 

These are a valuable additional resource to use in collaboration with Fire Insurance Maps, Directories, and other historical documents to get as complete a picture as possible of a site in a specific moment in the past. (I’ll be doing a post on Fire Insurance maps later this year – one of my favourite resources!!)

Although GIS and mapping have been able to consolidate an impressive amount of recent and current data into digital maps and documents , tracking down historical information about a specific site at a specific moment in time is not as straight-forward or accessible.

Aerials show a lot of things that aren’t necessarily obvious from other resources – or would take some expensive mapping or time to compare information from a range of historical documents.

But by looking at an aerial photo you can make out things like the topography, vegetation, building footprints, roads, and urban geography of a given place at about a one-decade interval.  Useful, interesting, and fun 🙂

If you’re looking for aerial photos of Vancouver, the UBC Geography Dept has them going back to the 1930s.

The department has also created a page of information and links to aerial photos for other jurisdictions, mostly Canadian and American