Holly Hendrigan spent three years assembling the TechBC Memory Project, which features interviews with 30 people who worked and learned at B.C.'s first technical university. She is pictured with a book containing TechBC's original architectural designs. Photo credit: Soo Oh.

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SFU librarian Holly Hendrigan to present TechBC Memory Project

April 05, 2017
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B.C.’s first technical university opened in 1999 amidst worldwide fears that computers would cease to function when the new millennium dawned.

Computers carried on, but the Technical University of B.C.(TechBC) did not, closing its doors three years later when the B.C. Liberal Party came to power.

At the time, Simon Fraser University took on many of its staff and programs, creating the foundation for what would become the Surrey campus.

SFU librarian Holly Hendrigan, who has worked at the Surrey campus since 2009, has long suspected the campus’ collaborative and positive work culture must have stemmed from its beginnings as TechBC. After all, she says, the fledgling university was a highly innovative, pioneering project, both pedagogically and in its vision for urban planning and renewal.

Her interest in the defunct university led her to develop a ‘side project’ collecting oral histories from those who first worked at TechBC. She ended up collecting 30 in-depth interviews with people who were eager to talk about the project. These include SFU President Andrew Petter, SFU Vice-Provost Students & International, Tim Rahilly, and Kwantlan Polytechnic’s Jane Fee.

The result? The TechBC Memory Project, a digital collection of fully indexed, summarized, and transcribed interviews that are publicly available through SFU Library. This venture in digital humanities also maintains the “orality” of the conversations by using an application that allows users to navigate to specific points in the audio file. 

“One of the most surprising aspects for me was the amount of enthusiasm and interest in TechBC all these years later,” says Hendrigan, who spent almost three years on the project.  

Her interviews reveal many interesting memories of how the Surrey campus came to be established, despite a 1995 announcement naming Cloverdale as TechBC’s future home. An interview with SFU President Andrew Petter, then an NDP cabinet minister, reveals interesting discussions with Bob Williams, former chair of ICBC, and with the late architect Bing Thom, about locating the campus in Whalley. In the interview, Petter explains how they saw the opportunity as a means “to have a larger social impact, a bigger footprint. Not just physically, but in terms of its socioeconomic benefit.”

Learn more on April 13 when Hendrigan presents her TechBC Memory Project at the Surrey campus, room 5360, 12:00-1:00 p.m..