Collection spotlights life of pioneer B.C. missionaries
Donation answers questions and fills gaps in our past
"Invaluable" is how prominent B.C. historian and
Jean Barman describes a collection recently donated to UBC
Barman and Brenda Peterson, head of Special Collections, say the
and Emma Douse Crosby Fonds Collection includes important and unique primary
research material on early native land claims and the life of a missionary's
wife in B.C. during the 19th century.
The collection is composed of more than 200 letters, 400 photographs, hundreds
of clippings, books, pamphlets and other documents that were kept by Rev.
Thomas Crosby and his wife Emma. They contain information about our past which
was previously unknown, Peterson says.
"Researchers and writers are genuinely excited about the material on First
Nations and a firsthand account of a young woman arriving in Fort Simpson on
the rugged West Coast from eastern Canada in the 1870s," she says. "There is a
gold mine of information, including Emma's letters. Some to her mother are 30
pages in length."
Barman -- author of the popular book, The West Beyond the West: A History of
B.C. -- was recently picked by the Vancouver Sun as one of the top 10
thinkers in the province.
She and her research colleague Jan Hare were the first to roll up their sleeves
and blow the dust off the collection. They are editing Emma Crosby's
letters for publication.
"The family is to be congratulated for having the insight and foresight to save
and share this wonderful collection," she says.
The collection was donated by Helen Hager, granddaughter of the Crosbys. Her
daughter Louise, a well-known Vancouver bookseller who owns the store Women in
Print, says the collection has always been in back rooms and in the back of her
"In the past people moved around less than we do now and had more space," Hager
says. "It was stored in nooks and crannies in various places and no one really
looked through it until six years ago when I decided I might write something
about it and began to collect everything in one place."
"Through Brenda and Jean we discovered it had more historical value than anyone
realized," she adds. "Our family, especially my mother, is delighted. It's
marvelous to think that future generations will have access to it."
The Crosby Collection will interest researchers, students and anyone with an
interest in Canada's past, says Peterson. Like everything else in Special
Collections it is available for viewing by the public.
Call 604-822-2521. For a virtual tour of Special Collections exhibits, visit