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More About the BC Archives

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Message from the Provincial Archivist

Welcome to the exciting and fascinating world of Archives.

Archives are no longer bound by the physical confines of a traditional archives facility; archivists can now reach out to a broader audience. Through this web site, we can reach across the width and breadth of our province and indeed the world, to open up a new universe of researchers.

Through the creativity, dedication and hard work of our staff, you can now search our finding aids, our visual records collection and the Vital Events Indexes from the comfort of your home. Another major stride forward is The Amazing Time Machine. It is based on the school curriculum and designed to support both teachers and students as they learn about our history. It is also great fun for those interested in general history.

Even as we embark upon this "information highway" to spread far and wide the message of archives generally and more specifically the BC Archives, we are mindful of our societal responsibilities and legal obligations.

We, at the BC Archives, are committed to acquiring, preserving and making accessible the documentary heritage of British Columbia for our citizens and researchers around the world. We shall embrace the new information technologies to provide greater access to our archival records. But as we do, we will balance access against the other custodial watchwords: "security", "integrity," and "authenticity."

Enjoy your visit to this province's wonderful archives. Who was it who said "archives cannot be fun!"


BC Archives Public Access System / Web Site Background

Public expectations of swift, convenient access to information have grown over the last decade in conjunction with the increasing costs of maintaining manual information delivery systems. The resulting demands on resources have led many government agencies to review existing manual systems and to seek alternate solutions to established service delivery processes.

Within the heritage and cultural communities, this public demand is even higher as people begin to search out family and community histories. Concurrently, massive growth in the Information Highway in terms of access, capability, and data has promoted increased discussion regarding its usage, content and educational potential. Archival institutions are repositories of high quality information content, and therefore uniquely positioned to contribute in this area.

In the spring of 1993, the British Columbia Archives started the implementation of an imaging system that would facilitate greater public access to its holdings. The system developed by the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Victoria, provides rapid full text retrieval of information from a database containing over 100,000 textual descriptions of historical photographs, paintings, drawings and prints.

Beginning January 1995, the B.C. Archives initiated remote electronic access to this on-line information system via the Internet, for users of both Gopher and World Wide Web. By providing regional and world wide access to its historical visual records database, the B.C. Archives anticipated an increase in public awareness of community archives in general and the B.C. Archives specifically, attracting a broader range of people to Archives. The service would provide a timely and effective way to conduct advance research preparation prior to arriving at the reference room.

Subsequently, the range and extent of on-line information has continued to grow as the system has expanded to include finding aids and catalogues (Textual Records), resources for genealogical research (Genealogy) featuring the Vital Event Indexes, and exhibitions such as the BC Archives Amazing Time Machine, an on-line historical wonderland for children of all ages.

This service may be accessed via the Internet: at http://www.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca

Remote clients wishing to connect this service may do so via modem to their local Freenets, through Institutions offering access to the Internet, or through a local Internet service provider.

Clients are able to directly search and access information related to many areas of interest instantly, and without requiring the direct intervention of archival personnel. Clients have embraced this electronic method of service delivery. Usage of the system (see Access Statistics - BC Archives Public Access System) has almost doubled every year since its inception. Concurrently, the BC Archives also accepts Access and Research Inquiries related to its holdings through electronic means, including email and on-line electronic forms.


A Brief History of the BC Archives

Interior, Provincial Archives 1949
A-09541
1894 Historical records (both official and non-official) were first collected by the Legislative Library.
1908 The Provincial Archives was founded as a separate agency. R.E. Gosnell was appointed Provincial Archivist. It continued to share space with the Legislative Library.
1910 Ethelbert O. S. Scholefield appointed Provincial Archivist. He was appointed Provincial Librarian in 1900. The first inventory was created. A concerted effort was made to collect government records from various regional centres.
1915 The Provincial Archives moved into the Connaught Library of the Parliament Buildings. The collections were not opened to the general public.
1919 Scholefield dies. Today, a giant copper beech tree on the Parliament grounds honours his contributions.
1920 John Forsyth appointed Provincial Archivist. A system for organizing the archives was introduced.
1926 John Hosie was appointed Provincial Archivist.
1934 Dr. W. Kaye Lamb was appointed Provincial Archivist. He later serves as Dominion (now National) Archivist from 1948 to 1968.
1940 Williard Ireland was appointed Provincial Archivist. In 1946, he is also appointed Provincial Librarian.
1970 The Provincial Archives moved out of the Connaught Library into its present Heritage Court location.
1974 Williard Ireland retires. His 34 years is the longest tenure for a BC Provincial Archivist.
1974 The positions of Provincial Librarian and Provincial Archivist were permanently separated. Allan R. Turner (formerly Provincial Archivist of Saskatchewan) was appointed Provincial Archivist.
1977 Hon. Grace McCarthy, Minister officially opens the Emily Carr Gallery on Wharf Street, a satellite facility of the Archives and showplace ofr the archival paintings.
1979 John A. Bovey was appointed Provincial Archivist. Prior to his appointment, Bovey had been Provincial Archivist of Manitoba, and Archivist of the Northwest Territories.
1980 Aural History Programme of the Archives expanded and renamed the Sound and Moving Image Division.
1982 A formal records management program is created within the BC Government. It had a separate reporting structure but was closely allied to the Provincial Archives.
1987 The Records Management Branch and Provincial Archives were joined with the intended agency name of Provincial Archives and Records Services (PARS).
1988 Formal amalgamation as the British Columbia Archives and Records Service (BCARS). The new branch was an integrated records management and archives service.
1991 After 14 years, closure of the Emily Carr Gallery.
1996 BCARS and the Information and Privacy Branch were merged to create the BC Information Management Services division with Information and Analysis Service (records management and information and privacy) and the Archives and Information Access branch (the traditional archives).
1998 John A. Bovey retires after 19 years as Provincial Archivist
1998 Gary A. Mitchell, CRM is appointed as the new Provincial Archivist.
1998 Archives and Information Access Branch is renamed British Columbia Archives. Information and Analysis Service is renamed Information and Data Management Branch.
2000 British Columbia Archives re-assumes staff and responsibility, from Information and Data Management Branch, for the corporate records management function within government. Remainder of Information and Data Management Branch is renamed Corporate Privacy and Information Access Branch, with staff and responsiblity for privacy and the administration of the Freedom of Information legislation.

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