Collection RBSC-ARC-1694 - Leonard G. McCann Santo Tomas Internment Camp collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Leonard G. McCann Santo Tomas Internment Camp collection

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  • Textual record

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  • Source of title proper: Title is based on the contents of the collection and the name of the collector

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Physical description

1.16 m textual records and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(1927 -)

Biographical history

Leonard G. McCann was born on February 3, 1927 in Shanghai where his family had lived since the 1860s. He spent his childhood years there, attending St. Giles British School.

During WWII, he and his mother, Barbara McCann, were interned in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp at Santo Tomas University in the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. While interned, the McCanns participated in the functioning of the camp’s internal administration, Barbara as a Room Monitor and Leonard working in the gardens and hospital. Following liberation, internees were evacuated from the camp beginning on February 11, 1945. The McCanns were taken by ship to San Francisco, California, but quickly relocated to Canada to avoid the US Military draft, to which Leonard would have been susceptible.

After the war, the McCanns came to Victoria, BC based on a sponsorship from Leonard’s aunt and uncle. Here, he worked various jobs including ship fitter's apprentice, drapery salesman and Land Registry office clerk before landing work at the new CBC television operation in Vancouver. After briefly working at CBC in Toronto, he returned to the West Coast to work for BCTV. A training course for museum workers and archivists led him to work for the Royal Canadian Engineers Museum in Chilliwack. In 1968, he joined the Vancouver Maritime Museum, where he worked as curator until his retirement in 1993.

Custodial history

The archival records in this collection were collected and preserved by Barbara McCann during her time as in the Santo Tomas Interment Camp during WWII. In her capacity as a Room Monitor, she saved records demonstrating the internal structure and functioning of the camp.

Also collected and preserved by Barbara McCann are records pertaining to life in Shanghai prior to WWII, including the school notebooks of her son, Leonard McCann.

The collection also includes records created by Leonard McCann during select reunions of the survivors of the Santo Tomas Internment Camp.

Leonard McCann maintained the material after his mother’s death and select items were the subject of a lecture at the Vancouver Maritime Museum in the 1990's at which point he housed some items in polyurethane covers and created labels to provide explanation and context.

Material in this collection was assembled and donated to the UBC Rare Books and Special Collections by Leonard G. McCann on December 19, 2011.

Scope and content

The contents of this collection pertain to the Santo Tomas Interment Camp in the Philippines during WWII. The camp was active from 1942 to 1945 and housed over 4,000 prisoners-of-war.

Records reflect the internal administrative structure and functioning of the camp, daily life of internees, the political activities surrounding the camp, and the personal experiences of Barbara and Leonard McCann.

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Physical description

Includes 75 photographs, 39 slides, 2 VHS cassette tapes, 1 audio cassette tape, 13 clothing items, and 21 internment prisoner artifacts

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Accrual added and described by student archivist Dennis Michailides in December, 2015.

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