Primary contactRoyal BC Museum 675 Belleville Street
Victoria, British Columbia V8W 9W2
The BC Archives is the oldest archival institution west of the Great Lakes. It traces its roots back to 1894, when the Legislative Library was built. The archives was formed to preserve records of early colonial settlement in British Columbia. Afraid that records of the newly formed province would be lost, R.E. Gosnell, the first librarian, mounted an advertising campaign asking for “reminiscences of pioneer settlement” (Inland Sentinel, June 1, 1894, 3).
British Columbia was the first western province to recognize the importance of collecting and preserving archival records. In 1908 the provincial archives was officially founded as a separate agency, though the position of provincial archivist and librarian remained a single role until 1974. In 1915, the library and archives were moved into the newly built Provincial Library. This building had a separate space dedicated to the archives.
The first inventory of archival holdings was created under Ethelbert Schofield. Schofield, appointed provincial archivist in 1910, also made a concerted effort to collect government records. But there was still no standard organizational system for the archives, and collections were also unavailable to the general public. It was not until the appointment of John Forsyth in 1920 that a system of organization was introduced and the archives opened to the public.
By 1970 the provincial archives had outgrown its space in the Provincial Library, and in that year it moved to its present location at the corner of Belleville and Government streets. This new building had a sizable research room and secure storage for archival holdings.
The BC Archives joined the Royal BC Museum in 2003, as did Helmcken House and the Netherlands Carillon. Together they formed the cultural precinct that exists today. The BC Archives works closely with the Royal BC Museum to develop exhibition and program content, and we continue to provide access to records of enduring value to the province for researchers, staff and the general public.
The BC Archives holds millions of archival records and publications that document the history of British Columbia. We acquire records from government ministries through scheduled record transfers and from private individuals and companies through donation.
Our collection includes: 100,000 boxes of textual records; 5,000,000 photographic images; 10,300 paintings, drawings, and prints; 180,000 maps and architectural records; 13,000 audio recordings; 5,300 video and film, titles; 72,000 publications
Inclusive Dates: ca. 1530 to present
Archives Collections Search : You can search for descriptions of archival records held at the BC Archives and access digital versions, where available, using this database. Archival records include textual records, photographs, documentary art, sound recordings, moving images, and cartographic records.
Library Collections Search : You can search for descriptions of publications held in our non-circulating library using this database. Publications include but are not limited to books, directories, pamphlets, government reports, etc.
Genealogy Search : You can search for birth (1854-1903), marriage (1859-1941), and death (1872-1996) registrations using this database. There are digitized versions for many of the registration listing. These are attached to the listing under Vital Stat Image(s).
Reference Guides and Inventories : Detailed inventories of collections, as well as guides by subject that provide you with resources available at the BC Archives, useful publications, and recommendations of other places to look for the records you are seeking.