UBC History FAQ

Main Library concourse 1920sFrequently-asked questions about UBC’s history

All other questions can be directed to Archives staff.

When was UBC established?
That depends on what you mean by “established”. The enabling legislation, the University Act, was passed by the B.C. Legislature in 1908 (the Act’s fiftieth anniversary in 1958 was marked by the publication of Tuum Est, the first comprehensive history of the University, and by the launch of the “UBC Development Fund”, the first public appeal for capital funds by any Canadian university). The first meeting of Convocation was held in 1912 (this was clearly regarded by the Provincial Government of the time as a “launching ceremony” for the University). The University opened and the first classes were held at the Fairview campus in 1915 (this is the most commonly-accepted date – the seventy-fifth anniversary was marked with great fanfare in 1990). The Point Grey campus was opened in 1925. UBC-Okanagan opened in 2005, on the Kelowna campus of the former Okanagan University College.
When was the ______ faculty/department/programme established?
The dates for the establishment of the faculties can be inferred from the list of deans. Dates for departments, programmes, institutes, etc. can be determined by referring to back issues of the University Calendar.
When was the ______ Building built?
See the alphabetical or chronological lists of buildings and facilities.
How high is the clock tower in front of Main Library? When was it built?
The Leon Ladner Bell Tower, named after the University supporter who donated the money for it, is 140 feet high. It was completed in 1969.
Do you have maps or plans of the steam tunnels?
No, we don’t. This issue of The 432 science undergraduate newspaper has more information about the network of steam tunnels that used to supply heat to buildings around the campus. Please note that most of these old tunnels were replaced around 2015.
Do you have old photographs?
Yes we do.
Do you have photographs of [person/place/event]?
We might. Search the historical photograph database. The images are from low-resolution digital scans, suitable for research purposes but not for publication. If you require a high-resolution custom scan, please write down the image number (found in the description of the image as “UBC XX.1/XXX”), and contact us. Here is our fee schedule.
Do you have that picture of the cows grazing in front of the Library?
Yes, we do — here it is. Please note that this is actually a composite picture — cows never grazed on Main Mall.
How many students attended UBC in [ year ]?
See the annual enrolment figures.
Do you have student records?
There are some early student records included in the Registrar’s Office fonds — however, access to these records is subject to review by the University’s FOIPOP Coordinator. The University Archives does not provide transcripts or other official academic information — such enquiries should be directed to UBC Student Services or the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
Did my mother/father/grandfather/etc. attend UBC in [ year ]?
Students are listed in the Totem (student yearbook, published 1915-1965), as well as in early editions of the University Calendar (to 1949). For more recent information, contact UBC Student Services or the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
What do the stained-glass windows in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre represent?
There are two sets of stained-glass windows in the Learning Centre (formerly the the Main Library). Above the front stairwells leading to the Chapman Learning Commons is the “Canadian Jubilee Memorial Window”, installed in 1927-28 to mark the 60th anniversary of Canadian confederation. It consists of nine panels of stained glass, with the Canadian coat-of-arms flanked by those of the eight provinces apart from British Columbia (Newfoundland was not part of Canada at that time).
High on the walls of the Chapman Learning Commons are stained-glass windows showing the coats-of-arms of various Canadian and British universities and colleges. On the west wall (going from north to south) are crests representing Victoria College (now Victoria University, Toronto), University of Alberta, University of Manitoba, University of New Brunswick, Saint-Joseph College (now part of the University of Moncton), McGill, UBC, University of Toronto, Mount Allison, Laval, St. Francis Xavier, University of Edinburgh, and McMaster. The east wall has the coats-of-arms of the University of Ottawa, University of Montreal, King’s College (Nova Scotia), Dalhousie, University of Western Ontario, Cambridge, UBC, Oxford, Bishop’s College (now Bishop’s University, Quebec), University of Saskatchewan, University of London, Trinity College (Toronto), and Acadia.
Do you have records from [person/department/organization]?
We might. Search our archival inventories. If you find what you are looking for, contact us for assistance. Please note that access to University records is governed by Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPOP) legislation. Requests to access institutional records must first be reviewed by the University’s FOIPOP Coordinator.
Do you have recordings or transcripts of Vancouver Institute lectures?
Here is a list of all Vancouver Institute speakers and lectures since 1916. UBC Archives has audio recordings of most lectures since 1975, and video recordings of most since 1986. It normally takes several months after a lecture for us to receive the recordings. We do not have transcripts.
Do you have old student essays / graduating papers / theses?
The University Archives does not keep student essays. Some term or graduating papers, primarily those relating to British Columbia, are kept at Rare Books and Special Collections. Theses are listed in the Library catalogue, and in cIRcle.
I’m calling from [department name]. How long do we have to keep our records?
It depends on which records you’re talking about. See our records management services for more information.
I’m calling from [department name]. We’re cleaning out our filing area — what records does the Archives want?
Certain records usually have archival value: minutes and reports, budgets, records of special projects or studies, departmental reviews, official correspondence of the department head, anddocumentation of your department’s origins. Other materials may also have archival value — please contact us directly for more information.