History of the Memorial Room Collection Page 3


 
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  Gibson+Bantingbust   Expanded remarks by
Professor Emeritus, Wm. C. Gibson, D.Phil.(Oxon) M.D., F.R.C.P., September 7, 1988 at the dedication of the Historical Collection of the Woodward Library, University of British Columbia.



The Life Sciences Libraries thanks Dr. William Gibson for his kind permission to reproduce his historical comments on the Historical Collection of the Woodward Library.
   
 

The Woodward Library opened in 1964, under the presidency of Dr. John B. MacDonald, who - coming from the headship of Harvard's dental research institute - gave us every support. The new library was the first "branch" permitted of the Main U.B.C. library, and under the direction of Douglas McInnes, it prospered beyond our wildest dreams. When he moved to the University Library, Anna Leith succeeded him and brought her hospital experience and interest in laboratory medicine to bear on a rapidly expanding journal literature. For periodical subscriptions today, the Woodward Library is second only to UCLA in North America. Thanks to Dr. McKechnie, Dr. Turvey, and the Woodward Trustees the telephone link with the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C. was one of the first established anywhere.

In so many ways Mr. Woodward was far ahead of his time in realizing the universal usefulness of medical and scientific knowledge, and the necessity of codifying it, if it were ever to be made available to all. He loved to read medical biography and re-read many times William Macmichael's The Gold-Headed Cane - the story of the walking cane which was handed down from that princely benefactor of Oxford, Sir John Radcliffe to succeeding luminaries in the medical profession.

The only part of the Library exempted from the modular dictate was the Memorial Room, beautifully designed by Zoltan Kiss for rare books. Puggy wanted to memorialize his father Charles, the founder of the family's department stores. Study cubicles in the gallery were named for our early collaborators, not to say conspirators: Spaulding (Dr. Hildegarde), Poynter (Dr. Noel) and O'Malley (Professor Donald of UCLA). It is alleged that father and son had little to say to each other, but as Puggy aged he ruminated continually on what he owed his father. A widower who was left to raise a large family, Charles Woodward was the most respected man on the West Coast. What he did for up-country settlers has never been told, but Puggy used to say that no steamship from the North ever returned there without some supplies for the isolated nuns or clerics ministering in isolated areas. H.R. MacMillan often told me of watching Charles Woodward in the backyard of his rambling house near Main and Keefer Streets, doing the laundry for his large family on Sundays. "H.R." considered his friendly rival Puggy to be the best businessman raised in the province.

Sometime after the Woodward Library was opened, Puggy asked me if the building was what we needed. He had given it unusual (for him) praise on the opening day when he said it was the only project he ever engaged in which was up to his expectations. He could find no fault in it. This had been high praise! But on his infrequent visits to "his office" which we had set aside for him in the northeast corner of the main floor, he remarked on the torrent of students that came pouring through the turnstiles. He asked, "Is this building doing its job?", to which I replied that it certainly was but was too small to meet the demand.

That did it. He said "Well, let's double it," plus a few expletives. So the roof was ripped off and a further floor was added, and the entire building was extended on all floors, out to the property line on the west, which doubled our capacity, provided for the Sherrington Seminar Room, rare book storage above it, and brought the number of seats for readers up to one thousand. It was little wonder that much use was made of these seats in the evenings by commerce, philosophy and engineering students. On the windowed north wall of the rare book storage area studies were furnished and named for members of the Department of the History of Medicine and Science: Dr. S.E.C. (Ward) Turvey, Dr. S.W.A. Gunn, Dr. Iser Steiman and Dr. E.L. Margetts.

One day when I was attending Defence Research Board meetings in Ottawa I was having a bath at the Chateau Laurier, having just flown in from Vancouver. The telephone rang and, covered in soap bubbles I answered it. Here was the University Librarian, Basil Stuart-Stubbs, out of breath, saying that H.R. MacMillan was just finishing a lunch meeting with him at the Faculty Club at U.B.C. "Baz" was reporting to his bibliophilic ally on a recent visit to Europe, (financed by H.R.), in search of great collections for sale. The usual question was put: "What is the best thing you saw overseas?" Baz blurted out the fact that it was Dr. Hugh Sinclair's private library at Oxford, which was too expensive to consider. "Did Bill Gibson tell you to go there? If so it will be expensive. How much does Sinclair want for all 7,000 volumes?" Baz replied sheepishly "Ninety thousand pounds sterling". "Get Bill on the phone and ask him if it is worth it". So I told Baz that it was worth every penny of it, but more importantly the University of Texas was after it. Since it was American Thanksgiving that day it was our only chance to move, as all Texans' minds were on turkey, not books. That message was all that Mr. MacMillan needed and the Sinclair collection was bought by cable.

 
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