Lost access to Canada Commons and Policy Commons

Users are seeing a “Sorry, something went wrong trying to log you in.” error when trying to access Canada Commons or Policy Commons.

We are working to resolve the issue.

As a workaround please access via the Resource Pages – https://resources.library.ubc.ca/?searchtype=keywords&search=Commons

New Books at Education Library: May 2024

Exciting new books have just landed at the library!

Click on the cover and title for more information:

LB1139.5.R43 L56 2022 Reading above the fray: reliable, research-based routines for developing decoding skills / Julia B. Lindsey; foreword by Nell K. Duke.


PZ7.1.O55 Ev 2023 Everyone’s thinking it / Aleema Omotoni.


PZ7.1.H4314 We 2023 We’ll never tell / Wendy Heard.


PZ7.1.O4425 Fu 2022 Funeral girl / Emma K. Ohland.


PZ7.1.F75478 Re 2023 The reunion / a novel by Kit Frick.


All About Oscar

Many thanks to guest blogger Barbara Towell, E-Records Manager with University Archives, for contributing the below post. This exhibit was co-curated by Barbara and RBSC Archivist Krisztina Laszlo.

Artray photo. ([1945]). Oscar outside Oscar’s Steak House at 701 Burrard Street (81420). Vancouver Public Library.

All About Oscar is an exhibit about 1940/50s businessman, Oscar Blanck. The photos are on display in Ike’s Café in the Ike Barber Learning Centre Spring 2024.

Oscar Blanck (1908-1954) was an entrepreneur, restaurateur and a bon vivant. Born in Brandon Manitoba, he was the eldest son of Jewish immigrants who escaped the antisemitic pogroms in late 19th-century Russia. Details are scant regarding Blanck’s early life except that part of it was spent with his parents and seven siblings in Winnipeg’s north-end known then as “Little Jerusalem”.

In the 1930s Blanck moved west settling in Vancouver with his wife Marjorie Prosterman. According to a 2018 interview with his daughter and UBC alumni Sharon Posner, the Blanck’s first opened a deli on Howe Street, but that venture failed. In 1943 Oscar and Marjorie tried their hand at business again by opening a small grocery and lunch counter called Oscar’s Deli. In the early years they sold groceries, home-made pickles, and sandwiches. This time the Blanck’s business did well enough to expand both their storefront and their menu as adjacent businesses either closed or moved. In just a few years the Blanck’s occupied a commanding spot at 1023 West Georgia and Oscar’s Steakhouse was established.

From Home-made Pickles to Home of the Stars

Westen, E. (1946). [Oscar Blanck tying his necktie] (UL_1622_0063). Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0426628

Oscar Blanck was a committed self-promoter who lived in an era where gimmicks were a popular publicity device; he never wore the same necktie twice, instead he gave them away to the first customer through the doors at midnight. Marjorie Blanck managed the business’ books while Oscar charmed customers, purchased product, handed out neckties, and managed the restaurant’s interior design. The latter included lining the walls with framed photographs and installing mirrors on the ceiling angled to enhance random people-watching. He was the only restaurateur that bought beef “on the hoof” at agricultural fares in part for the press coverage that the sale of prize cattle received in those days.

Oscar had two interconnected goals for his restaurant: to advertise his business by amplifying his image through press coverage; and to cultivate celebrities, which would presumably keep his restaurant full of customers hoping to catch a glimpse of a star. He achieved this objective by knowing what celebrity was in town, enticing them into his restaurant, and photographing the moment for posterity. One of the photographers frequently on-hand was Vancouver Sun photographer, Ralph Bower. Bower said that in the 1950s, Blanck would give him a free steak as payment for a photograph. But Bower was not the only photographer Oscar relied on, Blanck had a handful of photographers he could call at a moment’s notice including: Esther Weston who had a studio at 736 Granville Street, just two blocks from Oscar’s, before moving her business to New Westminster; and former Vancouver Sun photographer, Art Jones who in 1948 started Artray Studios and whose archive of 11,000 photographs was donated to Vancouver Public Library in 1994. If a musical act was playing next door at the Palomar Supper Club, and sleeping at one of the nearby hotels, Oscar endeavoured to ensure they were eating, often gratis, at his Steakhouse!

Jones, A. (c. 1945). [Oscar Blanck with Louis Armstrong] (UL_1622_0034). Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0426654

The late, great Vancouver legend, and bandleader, Dal Richards described himself as a regular at Oscar’s and confirmed that the steakhouse was ripe for celebrity-sightings. “I’d drop by from time to time and there they’d be: the Mills Brothers, Johnnie Ray, Frankie Laine, Sammy Davis Jr.” Alf Cottrell, writer for the Vancouver Daily Province casually reported that Oscar’s Steakhouse was the place where famous people “make themselves at home”. Cottrell found himself at Oscar’s late one night and was treated to insider intelligence from the server including what celebrities had been there and importantly for Cottrell, what they ate. Jazz musician, Louis Armstrong, for example, ordered hot chili con carne. Spike Jones, known for his spoof musical act, was serious and ate only Caesar salad while the Mexican Soccer team consumed plate upon plate of spaghetti. More than just king-sized steaks were popular at Oscar’s.

Explosive Midair Collision

Westen, E. (1946). [Oscar Blanck and a woman] (UL_1622_0074). Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. https://dx.doi.org/10.14288/1.0426628

At the height of Oscar’s popularity and just when plans for a new Oscar’s restaurant were well underway, tragedy struck. On April 8, 1954, after returning from seeing his ill sister, Oscar Blanck and 36 other people died when the plane they were travelling on, Trans Canada Airline Flight 9, collided mid-air with a RCAF training aircraft over Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The Vancouver Sun reported Trans Canada Airline Flight 9 to be the worst Canadian air disaster in history. Oscar was 45 years old.

A memorial service was held for the crash victims in Moose Jaw that was attended by more than 1000 people. Then Provincial Premier, former Baptist Minister, and father of socialized medicine in Canada, Tommy Douglas was the principal speaker followed by various religious personnel (Trotter, 1954). Blanck’s body was returned to Vancouver and buried in the Beth Israel Synagogue in Burnaby, BC.


Blanck’s widow Marjorie Blanck, sued the Canadian Government for $100K in damages which is estimated to be over 1 million dollars when adjusted for inflation. Multiple lawsuits brought by the families of the victims of Trans Canada Airline Flight 9 were eventually settled out of court.

On March 25, 1955, two years after Oscar’s death, Vancouver Sun entertainment reporter, Jack Wasserman had the grim task of reporting the auction results of both the Palomar Supper Club and Oscar’s Steakhouse, two pillars of 1950’s night life in Vancouver. The sale of the lighting fixtures, the name, and the stock of over 1000 celebrity photographs from Oscar’s Steakhouse earned $15,000 for the estate, which is upward of $168,000 in today’s currency.

About the photographs

The photographs in this exhibit are from the Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs donated to Rare Books and Special Collections in 2014 and 2020. Langmann purchased a lot of 146 Oscar Blanck photos locally from Love’s Auction House in the 1960s. The full collection held by UBC Library is digitized and available to view on Open Collections. The photos in this exhibit represent a selection from those held by UBC, and just a tiny slice of the multitude that once lined the walls of Oscar’s Steakhouse, 1023 West Georgia.


All About Oscar is curated by Krisztina Laszlo (Rare Books and Special Collections) and Barbara Towell (University Archives). We were unable to ascertain the names of some of the people in the photographs. Please contact us at rare.books@ubc.ca if you recognise anyone we could not identify.

Works Cited

Ancestry. n.d. “Solomon Blanck.” https://www.ancestry.ca/search/?name=Solomon_Blanck&event=_winnipeg&location=3243&priority=canada (accessed Oct. 9, 2023)

Bank of Canada. n.d. “Inflation Calculator.” https://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/related/inflation-calculator/ (accessed Oct. 8, 2023)

Bollwitt, Rebecca. 2012 “Vancouver History, Photographer Art Jones.” Miss604. Nov. 7, 2012. https://miss604.com/2012/11/vancouver-history-photographer-art-jones.html (accessed, Oct. 8, 2023)

Cottrell, Alf. 1951. “But Listen.” The Vancouver Daily Province. March 10, 1951. https://www.proquest.com/hnptheprovince/docview/2368740460/B9BD5FA481664AEEPQ/1?accountid=14656 (accessed, Oct 8, 2023)

Donaldson, Jesse. 2019. “The Forgotten Clubs That Brought Vancouver Nights to Life.“ Montecristo Magazine, January 20, 2019, updated May 17, 2021. https://montecristomagazine.com/community/vancouvers-forgotten-nightlife-clubs (accessed Oct. 6, 2023)

Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. n.d  https://www.jhcwc.org/jhc-search-detail/?sid=12912&tp=articles&pg=1 (accessed Oct. 8, 2023)

Mackie, John. “Pavel Bure, Sonny Homer’s red pants, and Ralph Bower.” The Vancouver Sun. Jun 10, 2018. https://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/pavel-bure-sonny-homers-red-pants-and-ralph-bower. (accessed Oct. 8, 2023)

Posner, Sharon. 2018. Interview by Debby Frieman. The Scribe: The Journal of Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, Volume 37: 20-24.

Richards, Dal and Jim Taylor. 2009. One More Time: The Dal Richards Story. Harbour Publishing 2009

Trotter, Graham. 1954 “Five Victims of Air Crash Identified.” The Nelson Daily News, April 12, 1954. https://open.library.ubc.ca/viewer/nelsondaily/1.0427552#p0z-2r0f: (accessed Oct 6, 2023)

Vancouver Daily Province. 1948. “Ties and T-bone Steaks Have Made Him Famous.” Dec 11, 1948. https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/december-11-1948-page-80/docview/2368956007/se-2. (accessed Oct. 08, 2023)

Vancouver Daily Provence. 1954. “Eyewitness Accounts: TCA Crash Scene Terrible.” April 9, 1954, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/april-9-1954-page-3-44/docview/2369136451/se-2 (accessed October 6, 2023).

Vancouver Daily Province. 1954. “Victim’s Relatives Seek $1,795,000: Families, Estates Sue Crown for Airline Disaster.” Oct 14, 1954.October 14, 1954 (Page 10 of 42) – ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Province – ProQuest (accessed Oct 6, 2023)

Wasserman, Jack. 1955. “About Now.” The Vancouver Sun. Mar 26, 1955, https://www.proquest.com/historical-newspapers/march-26-1955-page-29-64/docview/2240206669/se-2 (accessed Oct 8, 2023)

Wildfire Prevention in B.C. Historical Newspapers: 1904-1981

A comparatively warm and dry winter here in British Columbia has experts predicting a bad year for wildfires across the province. While wildfires have always been a natural part of British Columbia’s seasonal cycle, increasing seasonal average temperatures and decreased precipitation are contributing to longer, more widespread and more destructive wildfire seasons, with four of the worst seasons in recorded history having occurred in the past 7 years  (2017, 2018, 2021, and 2023).

Unfortunately, human activity is the cause of about 40% of wildfires in the province. Human caused wildfires may be either intentional or unintentional and can include causes such as open burning, industrial activity, fireworks, sky-lanterns, improper discarding of burning items such as cigarettes, or arson. While this is a frustrating statistic to digest, the silver lining is that there is great potential for wildfire prevention through proper education, awareness and subsequent behavioral changes.

This blog post contains advertisements and newspaper articles published in B.C. between 1904-1981 regarding wildfire prevention. These materials are from our BC Historical Newspapers collection which is available through UBC’s Open Collections.

It is interesting to observe the difference in how wildfire prevention was addressed in the 20th Century compared to how it is addressed in contemporary media. Historically, the major focus to inspire wildfire prevention was to emphasize the negative economic and industry impacts of the destructive blazes. Today, while the economic and financial impact of wildfires is still part of the conversation, it is more common for the focus to be on climate change, ecological impacts, health risks and loss of life. These differences are indicative of a shift in shared cultural values as well as scientific advancement that has allowed for better understanding of the causes and long term ecological and health impacts of wildfires.

While this blog post is not an educational resource on wildfire prevention, we hope that it inspires you to be wildfire aware and practice safety precautions when enjoying the great outdoors. For information on wildfire prevention, please visit the BC government’s webpage, which contains several resources.

Similkameen Star – August 1904

This article from the Similkameen Star discusses the responsibilities of individuals to reduce the risk of wildfires.

Cumberland Islander – July 1929

            This advertisement from the Cumberland Islander in 1929 highlights the devastating impact of wildfires on raw materials, and the rippling economic impact that raw materials shortages have on other Canadian industries.

Herald – July 1929

            This public opinion advertisement from the B.C. Forest Service emphasizes the ‘hostile’ public attitude to ignorance that results in harm and encourages people not to be careless.

The Princeton Star – August 1930

            Wildfires are a direct risk to Canadian forest industries; this advertisement frames the economic impact of wildfires on Canada’s national wealth and advises Canadians to “be careful with fire while in the woods”.

Similkameen Star – December 1938

This warning to hunters and fisherman was published in the Similkameen Star by the Game Commission. It warns outdoorsman of hunting accidents and wildfire risks and the precautions that should be taken to avoid harm and ensure an enjoyable and safe experience.

The Coast News – June 1947

            This wildfire prevention advertisement was featured in The Coast News in 1947.  Once again this ad emphasizes the value of losses caused by wildfires. The Minister of Lands and Forests warns people to “BE CAREFUL WITH FIRE! PREVENT FOREST FIRES!”.

Sunshine Coast News – March 1981

            The Province of BC’s Ministry of Forests ran this advertisement in the Sunshine Coast News in 1981. The advertisement is regarding the Ministry’s new policies on “costs and action responsibilities for wildfires in British Columbia”.

We hope you enjoyed seeing these vintage wildfire prevention ads, and that you were inspired to practice preventative measures while enjoying the outdoors.

Thank you for reading!

UBC Library opens Chung | Lind Gallery

UBC Library is excited to announce the official opening of the Chung | Lind Gallery showcasing the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection and Phil Lind Klondike Gold Rush Collection. The new exhibition space in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre on UBC’s Vancouver campus brings together two library collections of rare and culturally significant materials from Canada’s history.

The complementary collections explore the economic and social growth of early B.C. and the Yukon through exhibits that reveal stories about the Indigenous experience and the experience of Chinese immigrants to B.C. The gallery will provide faculty, students and the public with direct access to two significant Canadian cultural properties.

“We’re thankful to everyone who made the Chung | Lind Gallery a reality, after many years of planning and effort to create this remarkable space. Displayed together, these two outstanding collections will create a new focal point for historical research, teaching and learning at UBC, and in time become a magnet for scholars across Canada who wish to view these rare materials first-hand,” said university librarian Dr. Susan E. Parker.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring together these two avid and dedicated collectors—Dr. Chung and Mr. Lind—who share such a passion for history and material culture. And by putting their collections in dialogue with each other, we’ve discovered unexpected resonances. Now being displayed together publicly in the new Chung | Lind Gallery, we know the collections will continue to enrich and inform each other, providing new and exciting possibilities for learning and scholarship,” said Katherine Kalsbeek, head of rare books and special collections.

The Chung | Lind Gallery includes approximately 292 square metres of display space on the second floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. The space has been renovated to meet Canadian Conservation Institute and department of Canadian heritage guidelines and requirements for displaying, protecting and preserving heritage collections. Public and Page Two provided design support for the space.

An image of one corner of the gallery with colourful CPR posters on one wall and a black and white image from the Klondike in the foreground

The Chung | Lind Gallery. Credit: UBC Library Communications and Marketing

An achievement in visual storytelling, the Chung | Lind Gallery features both rare treasures from the collections and modern marvels. At the entrance, a large-scale model of Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) company steamship, the Empress of Japan, restored by Dr. Chung, rides the waves over a virtual ocean designed by Dutch Igloo. Further into the gallery, a miniature log cabin comes to life with projected scenes from the Klondike era.

Funding for the gallery renovation was generously provided by Phil Lind, the UBC President’s Priority Fund, the London Drugs Foundation, donors to the library, and by the Canadian government through the department of Canadian heritage’s Canada Cultural Spaces Fund.

“Libraries play a pivotal role in preserving and sharing Canada’s history and heritage, providing invaluable access to historically significant materials. They are custodians of collective wisdom, where every book can transport us to a moment in time and every shelf offers boundless opportunities for discovery. Thanks to the newly opened Chung | Lind Gallery, now and in the future, you can learn more about important moments in our country’s history and take in rare collections being showcased. Congratulations to the University of British Columbia and everyone involved in turning this dream into reality!” said Pascale St‑Onge, minister of Canadian heritage. 

A photo of a gallery visitor looking at a display of books mounted on wall behind glass.

The Chung | Lind Gallery. Credit: UBC Library Communications and Marketing

The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection, donated to UBC Library in 1999, contains more than 25,000 rare and unique documents, books, maps, posters, paintings, photographs, tableware and other artifacts that represent early B.C. history, immigration and settlement, particularly of Chinese people in North America and the CPR. Items from the Chung Collection were previously on display at RBSC. The new gallery space will bring this collection further into the public eye and provide new opportunities for community engagement.

The Chung Collection has been designated as a national treasure by the department of Canadian heritage’s Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board (CCPERB), and has been named to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s Canada Memory of the World Register.

“This collection started with an interest in my neighbourhood. My family was confined to Chinatown, and I became curious about the history of the people that lived there. Many people do not know how difficult things once were for early Chinese migrants. While the world has changed, this was only possible through first understanding the past. Our future is tied to history; to move forward, we must forgive the ills of the past, but we should never forget,” said Dr. Wallace Chung.

The Phil Lind Klondike Gold Rush Collection is an unparalleled rare book and archival collection dating from the Klondike Gold Rush, donated to UBC Library in 2021 by UBC alumnus and Canadian telecommunications icon Philip B. Lind, CM. The gift included $2 million to support the collection and the gallery renovation.

A photo of the gallery entrance, with text on the wall reading "In Search of Gold Mountain" and photos of Wallace and Madeline Chung and Phil Lind.

The Chung | Lind Gallery. Credit: UBC Library Communications and Marketing

The Lind Collection includes books, maps, letters and photos collected by Lind in honour of his grandfather Johnny Lind, a trailblazer and prospector who operated and co-owned several claims on Klondike rivers and creeks. The Lind Collection has been designated as a cultural property of outstanding significance by the CCPERB.

“The Lind family is honoured to have the Phil Lind Klondike Collection housed at UBC Library. Our father’s collection stemmed from a fascination for his grandfather, John Grieve Lind, and grew into a passion that followed him through his life. He wanted to share this underrepresented history with the academic community and for future generations to enjoy. It is truly unique to share this space with The Chung Collection, bringing together two disparate histories of west coast Canada from the turn of the century that are integral to the formation of the notion of the west,” said Jed Lind.

The Chung | Lind Gallery was unveiled with a special ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, April 19, attended by members of both the Chung and Lind families and UBC president and vice-chancellor Dr. Benoit-Antoine Bacon. The gallery will open to the public on May 1.

Explore photos of the Chung | Lind Gallery.


Media contacts

Erik Rolfsen
Media Relations Specialist
Tel: 604.822.2644

Anna Moorhouse
Manager, Communications & Marketing, UBC Library
Tel: 604.822.1548

UBC researchers eligible for new open access publisher discounts from Elsevier and Oxford University Press

Cover art of multiple journals published by Elsevier and Oxford University Press, displayed in a diagonally slanted grid

UBC authors looking to publish in peer-reviewed journals by Oxford University Press and Elsevier are now eligible for cost-savings thanks to new transformative agreements signed by the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN).

In February 2024, CRKN signed a new three-year, read-and-publish agreement with Oxford University Press (OUP). With this agreement, scholarly authors at UBC and other member institutions will be eligible for unlimited open access publishing in more than 350 OUP hybrid journals at no cost to the author. Authors can also benefit from a 10% discount on article processing charges (APCs) when publishing in OUP’s gold open access journals.

More recently, in April 2024, CRKN followed up by announcing a new three-year, read-and-publish agreement with Elsevier. Authors at participating member institutions, including UBC, will benefit from unlimited open access publishing in Elsevier’s hybrid journals without having to pay an APC. This includes more than 1,800 hybrid journals and 165 core hybrid specialty titles in Elsevier’s catalog.

“The new transformative agreements have already had a positive reception from faculty at UBC. There has been a growing interest from campus researchers to publish open access, but the issue of faculty assuming the publication costs has created a challenge that is difficult to overcome. With these new kinds of agreements the costs to publish and read are bundled together, removing that challenge,” says Erin Fields, Open Education and Scholarly Communications Librarian at UBC Library Digital Initiatives. “With the agreements with Elsevier and Oxford University Press, two of the larger publishers of UBC research, we hope faculty will take advantage of publishing open access, which is proven to increase access and readership.”

Transformative agreements have been changing open access publishing at UBC and are a clear indicator of UBC Library and UBC Okanagan Library’s continued commitment to open access. UBC’s participation in these transformative agreements, and as a CRKN member institution, is a joint effort co-funded by UBC Library and UBC Okanagan (UBCO) Library. Together, UBC Library and UBCO Library are able to significantly reduce or even eliminate the costs of open access publishing that would normally be paid by UBC authors, and instead enable those authors to redirect much needed funds back towards their research efforts.

Find out more about all the open access publisher discounts available to authors at UBC.

Dinner Menus from the 1930’s-50’s

This week’s blog post is a selection of dinner menus from the Chung Collection, which is held at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections. The Chung Collection contains many materials including travel pamphlets, itineraries and menus from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, which was a large enterprise that dealt in railway and non-railway transportation and travel. These menus are from the commercial passenger trains, steamships and hotels and offer insight into the lavish fare that one could expect from these extravagant excursions.

Empress of Japan, 16th April 1931

            Today in 1931, this beautiful art deco illustration was the cover of the “au revoir dinner menu” on the Empress of Japan. The menu features wine suggestions, dinner, salad and dessert offerings.

Dominion Train, 1936

            This dining car menu is from the Dominion train in 1936 and includes both set and a la carte menus. It features a beautiful photograph of Kicking Horse River on the cover.

Empress of Britain, Meridian Day menu, 1937

            This Meridian Day menu from the Empress of Britain features musical selections alongside the dinner menu. The cover of this menu features an illustration of the ship and a golden chariot being pulled by three white horses.

Empress of France, 17th September 1955

            This menu is from the Empress of France and features a beautiful view of Castle Mountain from the Canadian Pacific Railway Line on the front page. The menu also features information about the mountain on the back page, including the reason for its renaming in 1946 from Castle Mountain to Mt. Eisenhower, the name which it held until 1979.

I hope you enjoyed seeing what passengers on Canadian Pacific trains and steamships were eating in the 1930’s-50’s.

Thank you for reading!

UBC Library acquires access to digital newspaper historical archives from around the globe

UBC faculty, staff and students can now access three new digital collections of newspapers. Explore digital archives for The Montreal Gazette, the Chinese Newspaper Collection, and Le Monde, purchased earlier this year and now available through the library catalogue.

The Montreal Gazette is the only English-language daily publication in Montreal, Quebec. This historical newspaper database will provide UBC researchers with the ability to easily search through full copies of all issues published between 1867 to 2010.

The Chinese Newspaper Collection is a database of over 20 historical English-language daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines published in China between 1832 and 1953. Through articles, advertisements, editorials and cartoons, this database provides first-hand insights into the Chinese political and social landscape over 120 years.

Le Monde is one of most well-known daily newspapers published in France, with a history dating back to its founding at the request of General Charles de Gaulle. This archival database offers digitized issues of the French-language publication from 1944 to 2000.

In recent years, the library has worked to expand access at UBC to many historical newspaper archives, including local publications such as the Vancouver Sun newspaper (1912 to 2010), The Province newspaper  (1894 to 2010), and the Times-Colonist newspaper (1884 to 2010).

“Requests for historical newspapers have increased over the past few years,” says Susan Paterson, Collections Coordinator at Koerner Library. “These primary sources are critical in many Humanities and Social Sciences areas.”

Visit the library catalogue to access all these collections and more.

PHUB error when accessing UBC Library CWL

UBC Users may see a ‘PHUB error’ when trying to login via their CWL to UBC Library.

We are still trying to figure out what is causing this issue and are working to solve it urgently!

We understand this a stressful time for students. We will get this fixed as soon as we can!

UBC Library digitizes Indigenous language dictionaries

Illustration of laptop displaying pages from the Thompson Rivers Salish Dictionary.

As part of an ongoing effort by the UBC Library Digitization Centre and cIRcle, UBC Library is making Indigenous language dictionaries more accessible by digitizing these works and making them available through UBC Open Collections.

“Within the province of British Columbia, there are 32 First Nations languages—eight are severely endangered and 22 are nearly extinct. Language revitalization projects and supports are crucial in redressing the impacts of colonialism, and allowing for communities to have cultural sovereignty,” says Kayla Lar-Son, Acting Head of Xwi7xwa Library. “Within the past few years the number of active Indigenous Language learners grows each year in British Columbia. Providing access to rare materials for community members can aid in the increase of language learners and adheres to the concept of Indigenous data sovereignty as we are now providing access to once hard-to-find materials.”

Down the winding trail to digitization

Published in 1996, the Thompson River Salish Dictionary was printed as part of a specialist series dedicated to the study of Indigenous languages of the Northwest. Encapsulating decades of scholarly field research and the cumulative knowledge and expertise of many members of the Nɬeʔkepmxcín community, this unique work is now widely accepted as the authoritative dictionary of the Thompson River Salish (nɬeʔkèpmxcín) language.

It is also extremely hard to find a physical copy.

Only two such copies are available at UBC: in the personal collection of faculty member Dr. Henry Davis, professor in the UBC Department of Linguistics, and in Xwi7xwa Library’s special collections, as a non-circulating copy.

Thompson River Salish Dictionary, by Laurence C. Thompson and M. Terry Thompson.

In 2022, Dr. Lisa Matthewson, professor in the UBC Department of Linguistics, selected Thompson River Salish (nɬeʔkèpmxcín) as the language of focus for the Field Methods class, but quickly ran into a logistical issue. Students in the course would be expected to work on original research projects focused on Thompson River Salish. But how would a whole class comfortably share one dictionary?

Dr. Murray Schellenberg, the Research and Archives Manager for the UBC Department of Linguistics, decided to reach out to Xwi7xwa Library to see if the department could borrow their book, keeping it safe in the department’s reading room for the duration of the course. Instead, UBC Library offered an alternative solution. If the dictionary could be digitized by the library and made publicly available online, then every student in the class would have access.

The only obstacle would be securing the rights. Both co-authors, Laurence C. Thompson and M. Terry Thompson, had passed away years prior, and the book didn’t have a traditional publisher. So Dr. Schellenberg went searching for answers. His first stop was Dr. Davis, owner of the other copy, and whose research for the past 20 years has focused on the critically endangered Indigenous languages of British Columbia.

“If anybody knew who had the rights to this [dictionary], Henry did,” recalls Dr. Schellenberg. The answer, according to Dr. Davis, was surprisingly simple. It was Tony.

Dr. Schellenberg  learned that the Thompson River Salish Dictionary was published by Dr. Anthony (Tony) Mattina, a now retired faculty member at the University of Montana, as part of a series called the University of Montana Occasional Papers in Linguistics.

Dr. Davis offered to reach out. “And two days later, we had approval in principle to digitize the book,” says Dr. Schellenberg.

The UBC Library Digitization Centre began work on the dictionary soon afterward, and within three months the full volume was available on UBC Open Collections. While the Field Methods course had to make do with only one copy of the dictionary through the first term, by the second term, every student could access the book.

Finding a home in cIRcle

The Thompson River Salish Dictionary is one of several Indigenous language dictionaries now available through UBC Open Collections, including nɬeʔkèpmxcín : Thompson River Salish Speech, An English-Squamish Dictionary, and the Sechelt Dictionary.

Sechelt Dictionary, by Ronald C. Beaumont (Ronald Clayton).

With digitized materials like these, the Digitization Centre works closely with cIRcle to provide open access. As UBC’s institutional repository, cIRcle provides permanent Open Access to published and unpublished material created by the UBC community and its partners.

Traditionally, the materials sent to cIRcle are primarily theses, dissertations and research articles. “I think that’s what most comes to mind when people think of institutional repositories,” says Tara Stephens-Kyte, a Digital Repository Librarian at cIRcle.

But sometimes, the research materials that cIRcle receives are not as easily categorized, like the Thompson River Salish Dictionary. “When material comes to us, it’s because there’s a reason to believe that cIRcle is the best home for it.”

Once the material has been scanned and edited by the Digitization Centre, ready for its new digital home within the repository, the team at cIRcle figures out how to describe the item, adding metadata that maps to UBC Library’s standards and best practices. The team also ensures that the appropriate permissions are in place, such as the distribution rights for previously published works.

“It’s really about asking questions to figure out where to get that information from. If there’s a published version of the work, we can go to the publisher for distribution rights,” says Stephens-Kyte.

In the case of An English-Squamish Dictionary, a graduating project written in 1973, the journey to digitization was a little more unusual, says Stephens-Kyte, and the result of a combined effort from past and present library employees. While a physical copy of the dictionary already existed in the Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) catalogue, emerita librarian Margaret Friesen, who had been a friend of the late author, discovered that a digitized version did not yet exist at the library. Coordinating between the Digitization Centre, RBSC, and the author’s spouse , who was able to sign the license, Friesen helped the dictionary find a new, digital home at cIRcle.

“Especially with these retrospective items, we’re not in a position of guessing what the person wanted. Trying to map what cIRcle is today with what people understood about access and distribution 40 years ago is really challenging. We’re trying to establish what is the most ethical and responsible way to ensure that everybody is on board and that there are no barriers to access for the item,” says Stephens-Kyte.

The impact digitization and open access can have is not limited to scholarly endeavors either.

“It’s not just for the students, because it’s a huge book,” says Dr. Schellenberg, referring to the Thompson River Salish Dictionary. “It’s for the community members. It is basically the only dictionary of that language that exists, and now you can carry it around on your phone.”

If any Indigenous community members have questions or concerns about the digitization of these materials, please reach out to the UBC Library Digitization Centre or contact Bronwen Sprout (bronwen.sprout@ubc.ca).


This project is part of UBC Library’s strategic direction to create and deliver responsive collections.

Learn more about our Strategic Framework.