UBC Library and Vancouver Aquarium reveal Vancouver's secret waterways

Vancouver’s vanished streams and waterways can be discovered once again thanks to a digitization project involving UBC Library and the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

UBC Library digitized the content of the Aquarium’s paper maps from the 1970s, allowing both scholars and the public to see the paths of old streams and the original shoreline of Vancouver. The digitized maps encompass the City of Vancouver, and show the large area of land reclaimed since the 1880s due to the city’s ongoing development over the years. Indeed, downtown Vancouver, now covered in pavement, used to be full of streams.

Editors: The maps can be viewed at http://hss.library.ubc.ca/gis-services/oldstreams (details can be cropped out of the map with Photoshop; please provide a credit to: UBC Library).

“Streams play an important role in the water cycle – instrumental to groundwater recharge, and corridors for fish and wildlife migration – and it is vital that we capture their historical data,” says John Nightingale, President and CEO, Vancouver Aquarium. “UBC Library has provided a great service by digitizing the Vancouver Aquarium’s original maps. This valuable data on the city’s natural history will be useful to current and future scientists as they investigate the city’s natural evolution for planning purposes.”

The original paper maps are heavily used by UBC’s Dept. of Geography. Concerns about the extreme wear of the maps, and subsequent loss of valuable historical data, led to the effort to preserve them in a durable digital format that allows users to explore Vancouver’s origins. Even though they may no longer be flowing, the old streams still have relevance to fisheries experts, ecologists (most of the streams were salmon and trout habitats) – and even those who wonder why their local soccer field is always damp.

Paul Lesack of UBC Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division used geographic information systems (GIS) software and traditional illustration software to transform the old maps into a multi-platform electronic offering.

An attractive and colourful PDF map is available for printing. The information can also be easily loaded into Google Earth with a double click, and overlaid on satellite and terrain imagery. For those who want to look at Vancouver’s aquatic history on the go, it can be used in specialized GIS applications or loaded into the appropriate iPhone app.

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System requirements:
For PDF: Adobe Acrobat or equivalent software
For KMZ: Google Earth
For the ArcGIS shapefile and georeferenced image: iGIS application for iPhone, or GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software for desktop computers.

About the Vancouver Aquarium
The Vancouver Aquarium is a global leader in connecting people to our natural world, and a self-supporting, non-profit association dedicated to effecting the conservation of aquatic life through display and interpretation, research and direct action. Learn more at www.vanaqua.org.

About UBC Library
UBC Library advances research, learning and teaching excellence by connecting communities within and beyond UBC to the world’s knowledge. The Library, a high-ranking member of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), has 21 branches and divisions, and is the largest library in British Columbia. Its collections include more than six million volumes, nearly 551,000 e-books, more than 846,000 maps, audio, video and graphic materials, and more than 97,000 serial titles. The Library provides access to expanding digital resources and houses an on-site digitization centre. For more information, visit www.library.ubc.ca.


Glenn Drexhage
UBC Library
Tel: 604.827.3434
E-mail: glenn.drexhage@ubc.ca

Roxanne St-Pierre
Vancouver Aquarium
Tel: 604.659.3752
E-mail: publicrelations@vanaqua.org