Archival Bonds: the Baird-Bowering and SoundBox collections in conversation

George Bowering and Jean Baird sit at their kitchen table with cassette tapes and tea pots in front of them.

This is the second installation of an ongoing series coordinated by Paige Hohmann (UBCO Archivist) and Karis Shearer (Assoc. Professor, English) called “Archival Bonds.” The series explores the connections across collections housed in the UBCO Special Collections and the AMP Lab. In this installment, we present two posts by Research Assistants working with Hohmann and Shearer respectively, who write about the Baird-Bowering collection and Bowering fonds and the connections between them. NB: The first installment our series can be found here.


By Megan Butchart (UBCO SpokenWeb Graduate Research Assistant)

On February 11, 2022, Morgan Ryder visited the SpokenWeb at UBCO team to give a presentation on the Okanagan Special Collections‘ Baird-Bowering collection. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect across teams and share our respective experiences processing two closely related collections. There are significant differences between the Baird-Bowering collection and the George Bowering fonds in the SoundBox collection in terms of medium and time period. While the former consists of Jean Baird’s personal collection of George Bowering’s published books dating from the 1960s to the present, the latter contains cassette tapes recorded by Bowering between the 1960s and 1980s, capturing a period of Bowering’s life with his first wife, Angela Bowering, and their daughter, Thea Bowering. Many of these tapes contain either personal conversations between friends or “home recordings”, which document Thea growing up. I was reminded of the unique intimacy of these objects when Morgan reflected on Bowering’s personal inscriptions to Baird. Ultimately, these two collections complement each other in depicting various aspects of Bowering’s personal and professional life over the course of almost 60 years collectively. Having a major Canadian author from Oliver, B.C. represented in two Okanagan-based collections is a significant boon for researchers, students, and the local community alike.




By Morgan Ryder (Undergraduate BCRDH Project Assistant)

Housed on the University of British Columbia Okanagan’s campus, Okanagan Special Collections‘ (OSC) Baird-Bowering collection consists of a significant selection of Canadian author and poet George Bowering’s work. The collection was recently donated by Jean Baird, George Bowering’s partner. As this was her personal collection, many of the items have unique inscriptions in them that Bowering wrote to her. In addition to published manuscripts, OSC holds pamphlets which would be considered rare, unique, or “ephemeral.” These include texts written by Bowering, as well as those in dedication to him.

The collection is not considered archival because it is made up of published materials. It is special, however, when you consider its provenance – it is made up of personal gifts, often inscribed from the author to his partner. Bowering fonds (the compiled aggregations of his archival material) are located at several other institutions across Canada, including Queens University, UBC Vancouver, and Library and Archives Canada. The tish fonds, the poetry newsletter Bowering co-founded and co-edited in the 60s, are held at the University of Calgary.

These other collections house Bowering’s correspondence and drafts and have been available for decades. While OSC’s Baird-Bowering collection does not have this type of primary source material, it has the potential to offer new insights into Bowering’s life through his inscriptions to Jean and rare pamphlet publications. Recently acquired audio recordings from Bowering by Dr. Karis Shearer for the SoundBox Collection within the SpokenWeb project complement the Baird-Bowering collection in presenting new material for those interested in researching George Bowering’s life.


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