City of Vancouver Archives – Behind the Scenes

Comments 6 by Rebecca Bollwitt

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.

City of Vancouver Archives City of Vancouver Archives

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.

City of Vancouver Archives

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.

City of Vancouver Archives City of Vancouver Archives

City of Vancouver Archives

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.

Prospect Point

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.

City of Vancouver Archives City of Vancouver Archives

City of Vancouver Archives

City of Vancouver Archives City of Vancouver Archives

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.

Souvenir Views of Vancouver

… 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.

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6 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Jhenifer @ TransLinkFriday, July 10th, 2009 — 11:12am PDT

    Ooo – I love the City of Vancouver archives! So much history goodness. Thanks for the glimpse behind the scenes 🙂

  2. Vancouver History Tidbits: Stanley Park » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittTuesday, July 14th, 2009 — 11:46am PDT

    […] I was at the City Archives there was a great photo of the perimeter road in Stanley Park, covered (paved) in calcined shells, […]

  3. Chris MathiesonThursday, July 16th, 2009 — 9:39am PDT

    Thanks for bringing me along! There are so many amazing things being kept safe and sound there for future generations. Pity more people don’t know more about all the great, hard work they do preserving our past for futuer generations.

    You can drag me out on adventures anytime! 🙂


  4. Vancouver History: Before and After Photos » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittThursday, August 13th, 2009 — 9:53am PDT

    […] my visit to the City of Vancouver Archives I was captivated by their collection of photographs. Tens of […]

  5. 2009: My Year in Review » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittThursday, December 31st, 2009 — 10:03am PST

    […] 2009 Covering Canada Day in Surrey, going on a Girls Island Getaway with Keira, snooping behind the scenes at the City of Vancouver Archives, flying to New York for two days and meeting Mike Dilorenzo of the NHL, covering the Surrey Fusion […]

  6. MAxTuesday, January 11th, 2011 — 11:46am PST

    I’d be curious to read those first ever recorded minutes. Any chance they are available online?

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