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Moving images are motion picture film and videotape recordings, in any gauge or recording format, with or without an accompanying sound track.

The archives' moving images collection includes some of the first film footage shot in British Columbia (in 1899), and glimpses of the first years of the 20th century. However, it is the era from 1935 to 1985 that is most strongly documented. This was a period of tremendous change -- not just in terms of industrial development, but also in the domestic and working lives of British Columbians, in their farms and factories, their large cities and isolated communities. Often captured in no other way, these facets of BC history are uniquely documented in the moving image collection of the British Columbia Archives.

The collection was established in 1979 and grew quickly during the 1980s and early 1990s, making the Archives a key repository for British Columbia's film and video heritage. Today the Archives holds well over 4,000 titles (about 10,000 individual items) in a variety of film and videotape formats, spanning the first century of film history. These works include travelogues, industrial and promotional films, documentaries, newsreel items, television news footage, educational films, dramatic and experimental shorts, and family home movies.

British Columbia government productions form the backbone of the collection. These include major accessions from the departments or ministries of Agriculture, the Environment, Forests, Fisheries, Highways and Transportation, Recreation and Conservation, and Tourism, as well as the BC Government Travel Bureau and the BC Provincial Museum. A number of provincial crown corporations are also represented -- notably, the BC Hydro and Power Authority, BC Rail, and the Expo 86 Corporation.

Non-government productions are also a substantial part of the collection. Major accessions include films sponsored by the British Columbia Electric Company, British Columbia Packers, MacMillan Bloedel, Okanagan Helicopters, and Seaspan International. These sponsored films reflect the work of local producers like Leon Shelly and Lew Parry, whose efforts fostered the development of BC's film industry from the 1930s to the 1960s. Television broadcasting is represented by two extensive accessions -- the CHEK-TV Ltd. (Victoria) news film collection, and the Jack Webster/BCTV collection, comprising videotape recordings of the public affairs show "Webster!" Films by talented amateur cinematographers like Francis J. Barrow, Alfred Booth, Carleton P. Browning, Dorothy and Oscar Burritt, Stanley Fox and George F. Lowe depict many lesser-seen aspects of the province.

Searching or Browsing the On-Line Moving Images Index

As of April 2004, the index contains descriptive entries for almost 4,000 moving image titles (over 8,400 film and videotape items). This information has been compiled from the existing paper-based accession records, card indexes, finding aids and documentation files. Important information was also drawn from two published British Columbia filmographies, written by Colin Browne (1979) and Dennis J. Duffy (1986). Additional entries will be added to this index in the coming years.

Although the Moving Images Index does not contain on-line digital movies, selected digital clips in MPEG format can be viewed at:  Sample Moving Images, the First Nations in B.C. Gallery within the Amazing Time Machine, and at Welcoming the Royals: The Archival Legacy.


VHS videocassette reference copies exist for about 15 percent of the moving image items. They can be viewed in the Archives reference room during regular service hours.

Reference copies of specific titles have their call numbers highlighted in green in the on-line description. If a reference copy is not available for a particular title, one can often be created for viewing purposes, provided that the film or master video is in suitable condition. When it is not practical to copy the original film material to video, our Preservation Services staff may have to inspect and prepare the film before showing it to the user. Please discuss this with the Duty Archivist in the reference room.

Out-of-town clients intending to access moving images during a visit to the archives should contact us two to three weeks in advance to allow staff time to check the status of the material.

Copying: VHS copies of some moving image items may also be purchased for private viewing and research purposes only. However, the copying to video of certain film materials -- notably 8 mm, 35 mm, and fragile 16 mm originals -- may require the services of commercial transfer facilities. Clients will be responsible for the full cost of any external services required. These may be quite high, depending on the source materials being copied.

Copying Restricted: When these words appear in an on-line description, copyright is probably held by a third party, or there may be a donor restriction. Under Canadian copyright law, the BC Archives cannot release copies without written permission from the copyright holder and/or the donor. The user is responsible for securing all such permissions.

For details on ordering copies, please see Copying and Reproduction Services.

Commercial Use


Two published filmographies provide further information about films made in British Columbia before 1966, including items that are NOT in the Archives' collection. These books can be found in many public and university libraries, and copies can be consulted in our reference room.

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