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Uno Langmann is giving UBC 18,000 photos from B.C.’s history.

University of British Columbia

A renowned art collector and antiques specialist has donated a collection of more than 18,000 historical images of the province to the University of B.C.

Uno Langmann, owner of Uno Langmann Limited Fine Art on Granville Street, said he wanted to keep the $1.2-million collection of rare photographs in B.C. and tap into educational opportunities at the university.

"We are only curators of things in our lifetime," Mr. Langmann, 78, said in an interview on Tuesday. "We have to make sure they get a proper home when we are no longer here. I realized here was a wealth of information for newcomers, or for people who have been here for a while, about British Columbia. I wanted to donate it to a place where they would digitize it and make it available to every British Columbian so they could see the past."

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Mr. Langmann and his wife, Dianne, started the collection more than 40 years ago, when they bought an album containing early shots of Canada from an antique shop in Edinburgh. The collection has grown to include silver prints, stereographs and postcards, with works by photographers including William Notman, Charles MacMunn and Frederick Dally. The dates range from the 1850s to the 1970s.

In an October, 1940, image titled "Wait for me daddy," a young boy reaches for the hand of his father, a soldier marching with the British Columbia Regiment in New Westminster before leaving for the war.

In another, titled "The German Hurdy Gurdies," four women in full skirts with wide pagoda sleeves are pictured in front of Stirling's Saloon in Barkerville in 1867. A photo caption explains that the "hurdy gurdy girls" offered themselves as dance partners to miners for $1 a dance.

A third photo, also from 1867, shows three First Nations people standing in front of salmon caches on the Fraser River.

The images are being digitized and staff hope to have them available to the public this year. In the meantime, UBC library users will be able to view the items through the library's Rare Books and Special Collections.

University librarian Ingrid Parent said the donation is one of the most significant gifts in the school's history and UBC is honoured to receive it.

"The gift is significant, not just in its volume, but its scope of portraying B.C. history, which has not been the best documented in terms of historical research," she said. "This collection will add so much to the study, learning and teaching of B.C. history."

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