As part of its ongoing mission to end the tyranny of geography, the City of Vancouver Archives is shoveling much of its dead-tree format holdings into open-format digital files. As the city announced today, the seven-volume compendium called “Early Vancouver” has gone online. It’s actually quite exciting, because Early Vancouver is nothing less than the masterwork of Major James Matthews, the city’s first archivist.
The seven brittle copies of ‘Early Vancouver.’ Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.
The seven volumes were a compilation of partly-typed, partly-annotated texts, with cross-references to other volumes, notes scribbled in the margins (a.k.a. ‘marginalia’), and photograph references gathered between 1931 and 1956. The seven volumes as digital editions — all transcribed by hand, and now indexed and searchable — are keyword-indexed vignettes of the beginnings of this place as a “city.” The Vancouver Archives says “Early Vancouver is consistently one of the most utilized sources of information in the Archives’ holdings on the very early beginnings of Vancouver and the stories of its residents.”
On May 29, the Archives hosted a small reception for a full house of history buffs to celebrate the monumental achievement of getting the collection online and available to the wider public (that’s you). Local author Lee Henderson was invited to read some of his favourite excerpts, which he came across while researching old Vancouver stories for his book The Man Game.
In this short video clip, Henderson reads from a section describing Joe Fortes, the city’s first (volunteer) lifeguard, and how Fortes kept things civil in the gender-separated bathing zones in the early 1900s: