The University of British Columbia Okanagan now has one of the most complete collections of Canadian writer, and the Okanagan's own, George Bowering in its special collections library and digital humanities lab.
The Baird Bowering Collection Exhibition officially opened earlier this fall thanks to a donation by writer George Bowering and collector Jean Baird.
The literary duo—co-editors, and husband and wife team—donated Baird’s compilation of Bowering’s works across several genres and formats, including multiple editions of his Governor General award-winning titles Rocky Mountain Foot, The Gangs of Kosmos and Burning Water.
Bowering, originally from Oliver, B.C. has a long-standing relationship with UBC, having received his bachelor’s degree in 1960, master’s degree in 1962, an honorary doctorate in 1994 and the UBC Alumni Achievement Award in 2011.
The collection also features the unique Tinhorn Creek wine barrel lid gifted to Bowering by his hometown of Oliver, B.C. in celebration of his appointment as the first Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada in 2002.
UBCO’s collection is considered among the most complete in the world, with only Yale, the University of California, Berkeley and the Library and Archives Canada holding comparable collections.
Dr. Karis Shearer, a Canadian Literature Professor with UBCO’s Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies, says Okanagan residents are fortunate to have such a unique collection at the university.
“Many literary archives and special collections are located in urban centres such as Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver,” Shearer adds “to be able to access a unique literary collection by one of Canada’s best-known authors right here at UBC Okanagan is of immense value to our students and community members who wish to study a writer’s works and the social life of books.”
Bowering also donated a collection of his personal recordings on cassette tapes to Shearer’s AMP Lab.
“This cassette collection offers us a chance to hear the relationships and sociality behind the writing life, providing insights we typically associate with a writer’s literary correspondence,” says Dr. Shearer. “We hear him talking with his daughter, introducing talks by other major Canadian writers such as Sheila Watson, and conversing with literary friends Roy Kiyooka and Warren Tallman.”
Both the Baird Bowering and Bowering cassette collections are now featured in an exhibit currently mounted in the Okanagan Special Collections Corbishley Family Reading Room.
"We’re grateful to both Bowering for writing these, and to Baird for collecting and then contributing to our library,” says Paige Hohmann, UBCO Archivist.
“For Baird and Bowering, this was a homecoming for the collection to a place and landscape that influenced Bowering as a writer,” says Shearer “The geography that features in so much of his writing is evident in his collection Writing the Okanagan.”
The exhibit, located inside the UBCO library building will remain open until the end of January.