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Visual Records
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Visual Records include historical photographs, and paintings, drawings and prints in the collection of documentary art.

Of the total holdings, approximately 132,000 images have been described and are readily available for public reference. The collection consists of historic photographs of all types from the earliest to modern forms, depicting the widest range of subjects relating to British Columbia's history and culture, with an emphasis on records created by government ministries.

This wealth of materials is reflected in the extensive collections of case photographs (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes), glass negatives, lantern slides, modern transparencies, flexible film negatives, photographic prints of all varieties, photo albums, photo-engraving plates, and books devoted to photographic subjects.

Numerous unique collections exist, representing the work of such important early British Columbia photographers as Frederick Dally, F.G. Claudet, Richard and Hannah Maynard, Edward Dossetter, J. Howard A. Chapman, Savannah, and Ernest William Albert Crocker.

Other collections document special subject interest, such as the Tarasoff Collection, picturing Doukhobor history; the Bordertown Collection of historic railway photographs, and the F.V. Longstaff Collection, documenting military and social history in the province in the early part of this century.

Major collections of photographs created by BC government agencies also exist such as those once maintained by Government Information Services, which includes Beautiful BC Magazine (Ministry of Tourism), the Department of Travel Industry, and the Provincial Educational Media Centre. Other large units of government photographic records include those by the Forest Service, and the Department of Education.

In addition, the paintings, drawings and prints collection comprises approximately 10,000 items, including works by Emily Carr. See also: the Art in BC History gallery of the BC Archives Amazing Time Machine.

Searching or Browsing the On-Line Visual Records Index

As of May 2004, the index contains descriptions for 132,000 images. Of these, about 80,000 can be viewed on-line, with more being scanned every workday. See Images Added Recently.

For useful tips on searching and viewing on-line images, please see Suggestions for Accessing and Best Viewing.


The photo reference area of the BC Archives' Reference Room, which is open during full service hours, provides a number of access systems for on-site reference use. These include:

If reference prints are not available, and the images are not viewable on-line, it may be possible to access the visual records accession and view the originals it contains. It can take up to 24 hours to retrieve photographic accessions, and they can only be accessed during full service hours. Please discuss this with the Duty Archivist in the reference room.

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

Copying: Photo-realistic dye-sublimation prints of visual records items that are viewable on-line may also be purchased for private use and research purposes. Clients using the reference room can print out such prints, or inexpensive laser prints, on a self-serve basis. Images which are not available on-line must be accessed on-site in the reference room. If desired for purchase, such images can usually be scanned within two weeks.

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

Copyright: In the case of some images, copyright may be held by a third party, or there may be a donor restriction. Under Canadian copyright law, the BC Archives cannot release copies of these images without written permission from the copyright holder and/or the donor. The user is responsible for securing all such permissions.

Commercial Use

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