Yesterday I had the chance to check out what happens behind the scenes at the City of Vancouver Archives. Located in Kitsilano (between the Planetarium and the current Bard on the Beach tents) the Archives are pretty well hidden in their green-roofed building (aka the bunker). However, they have an accessible public research area filled with over a century’s worth of material, and also have one of the best views in town.
I asked Chris Mathieson from the Vancouver Police Museum to join me on the tour since he’s in the business of local history (and I think he enjoys this stuff even more than me). It was interesting to hear about different archival methods and the preservation of things like art, glass negatives, film, tape, and documents.
I got to read from the first-ever recorded City Council Minutes for the City of Vancouver, and unravel a street banner to see what would have been hanging above Cambie during my birth year. The banner ended up featuring a Len Norris drawing — you can read about Norris in this blog post, features some of his work.
Throughout the archives it’s amazing to see the data collected over the years, from as far back as the exploration of the region. The City’s first Archivist, Major J.S. Matthews, was appointed in 1933 and throughout his lifetime he gathered hundreds of thousands of photographs and an unimaginable wealth of other information that he collected personally or that was donated by individuals or businesses over the years. You can read about Major Matthews in the book The Man Who Saved Vancouver.
Quite a few of the Archives’ photos are available to browse online, and on-location. I went through a handful of binders during my visit and I could have flagged several dozen images that I’d love to have in my home. Luckily, many of them are available for purchase as prints or digital copies.
I saw some amazing photos from James Crookall which have yet to be scanned, but you can view a few of his images on the Archives site already. In the preservation room there were also some stunning hand-painted movie posters that once hung at the Orpheum.
I could seriously spend hours browsing the Archives and I was really happy to get the opportunity to check out what they’re all about, what they offer, and learn about exciting upcoming projects (2010-related). The City of Vancouver Archives are located at 1150 Chestnut Street and the reading room is open to the public from 9:00-5:00pm Monday to Friday.
… and if you’re ever wondering what to get me for my birthday, pretty much anything on their ‘what’s for sale‘ site will do.