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About Our Holdings

Archives' Library

City Government Records City Government Publications Directories
Documentary Art Maps and Plans Moving Images Newsclippings
Pamphlets Photographs Private Sector Records  

City Government Records

These are records produced by the civic government which have long-term legal, administrative and historical value.

A large number of the more than 1,000 linear metres of records dates from Vancouver's incorporation in 1886, and every year more public records arrive at the Archives as a result of an active records management program.

The Archives preserves historical records representing many aspects of past and current civic administrations and associated agencies. Of particular note are City Council minutes, by-laws and records of election. Although public records are primarily textual in nature, maps, plans and photographs are also represented.

City Government Publications

City Government Publications are reports and notices published by various City departments. We have more than 3,000 items dating from the 1900s to the present day.

Private Sector Records

The Archives actively acquires records documenting the social, political, economic, cultural and community life of Vancouver from non-government sources. A fascinating history has been carefully preserved by acquiring personal papers from individuals and organizations who have generated or collected materials of significant bearing on the history of Vancouver. The donors include:

  • pioneer families
  • politicians
  • social activists
  • artists
  • entrepreneurs
  • community organizations

These documents consist of over 900 linear metres of:

  • textual records
  • maps
  • plans
  • photographs
  • documentary art



The Archives photograph holdings are comprised of more than one million images from private-sector and public-sector records. These photographs depict a wide range of subjects relating to Vancouver 's history and culture from the 1860s to the 1980s. They bring to life the social, cultural and economic realities of the city's past, as well as the everyday activities of generations of its citizens.

Approximately 80,000 images described at the item level are available for public reference in the Archives' Reference Room. Roughly 72,000 item-level descriptions are available in the database and of these, about 58,000 have scanned images linked to the description.

Description of Digitized Photographic Holdings
About the Friends of the Archives Photographic Cold Storage Facility


Maps and Plans

Vancouver maps

Our holdings include over 4,000 maps, dating from the late 1700s to the present day. The maps, most of which are of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, come from a variety of sources, both public and private. They are indexed by place, subject and date and are on microfiche for easy access.

Architectural plans

We hold thousands of architectural plans from local companies and individuals dating from ca. 1910 to the 1960s.

Fire insurance plans

We hold fire insurance plans of Vancouver from 1885 to the 1960s. A few of the plans also depict other areas of the lower mainland. These also are on microfiche for easy access.

Ship's plans

Our collection of ship's plans consists of over 1000 plans of commercial and private vessels who sailed local waters from the late 1700s to 1980. The plans are indexed by name of vessel, ship's architect, ship builder, company and date. These also on are microfiche for easy access.

Tourist Maps

If you are looking for contemporary tourist-style maps of Vancouver, try the Tourism Vancouver site: Vancouver Maps


Documentary Art

We hold over 2,000 works of documentary art on a variety of historical local subjects from 1886 to the present. They include

  • oil paintings
  • watercolours
  • engravings
  • portraits
  • cartoons

Although access to some of these works is restricted for conservation reasons, researchers may view colour slides of many of them. The cartoons are available on microfilm.



Pamphlets are printed materials documenting many of the social and cultural events which have taken place in the city from 1860 to the present, and include:

  • brochures
  • programs
  • advertising broadsheets
  • political commentaries
  • calling cards
  • menus



Of particular interest to geneaologists, directories provide a year-by-year reference to names and addresses of individuals and corporate residents of the Lower Mainland from 1860 and of Vancouver from 1886 to the present.


Archives' Library

A specialized collection of over 2500 books on British Columbia and Vancouver history dates from the late 18th century. They are available for use in the Archives only.



Extensive clipping files dating from the 1920's to the present are an excellent source of information on Vancouver's:

  • politics
  • events
  • issues
  • prominent individuals


Moving Images

The Archives' moving image holdings include films created by City departments and bodies such as Engineering, Park Board and Fire and Rescue; home movies of Vancouver events and social life; and documentaries.

More about film . . .
Browse highlights



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