About Our Research


Research forms a key part of our mission at the Royal BC Museum. It is how we unlock the secrets to this magnificent land and the cultures that have flourished here. It helps us to be the best possible stewards of the human and natural histories of British Columbia. And it also guides us in sharing the story of this province, so rich in geography and culture, with the rest of the world.


Theme 1: Describing how government functions, including First Nations government

Program 1: History of public service
Government plays a central role in British Columbia society and the documentation of government and the records it produces are critical to our understanding of British Columbia yesterday, today and tomorrow. By conducting research into the records arising out of the activities of government, and administrative histories of the bodies that create those records, we will document this history.

Program 2: The BC Government and other organizations
The BC Government interacts with a wide range of other governments and agencies. It is our intention to document the province’s relationships to these organizations and examine how they have evolved since Confederation, whether with Crown corporations, municipal governments, the Canadian government or community and business associations.

Social History

Theme 2: Understanding social economic and cultural diversity

Standards and practices toward digitization for preservation of sound and moving images

Program 3: History of communities in BC
British Columbia is a community, but it is also made up of many communities. It is our aim to understand the way these communities have contributed to the British Columbia we know today. Why, for example, did some coastal villages and towns appear at one point in time, only to disappear at a later date? Who were the people who lived here and what shaped their lives? These are some of the questions we seek to answer.

Program 4: Biographical and historical documentation
Our work here consists of documenting British Columbia’s people and their histories through biographical and historical research that pertains directly to records. British Columbians will benefit from our contributions to the understanding of the people and events of our past, especially when undertaking their own historical research.

Program 5: The immigrant experience in BC
Myriad people have moved to and reside in British Columbia. This ethnic diversity has shaped who we are—and what we are. Their stories are our stories, and it is these stories that we use to develop our collection and create new galleries and exhibitions.

Program 6: Early period archaeology of BC
Human history in BC reaches back in time more than 10,000 years. Our ongoing investigations into the archaeological record add depth to our current understanding of the human story in British Columbia. Research in this area expands the quality of the information about our collections and provides a better context for this information. Having a solid knowledge base for our collections allows us to go forward with enhanced public programs that involve everything from public inquiries to major exhibits.

Environmental Change

Program 7: Energy
Energy is basic to nearly every activity. Understanding how energy use has changed over time and studying the sources of energy—be it animal power, steam power or electrical power—helps us see where we have been in the past and where we are going in the future.

Program 8: Resources and industry
British Columbia’s economy has for hundreds of years been dependent on our natural resources. By linking our resources to the growth of industry we can explain much of the changing human and natural landscape of BC.


Theme 4: Studying biodiversity

Program 9: Rare and endangered species
Research into the rare and endangered species of BC deepens our understanding of our rich biological heritage. Museum scientists contribute to this growing field by making and studying collections. Knowledge gained from this research can inform the management, protection, restoration and conservation of these special species.

Program 10: Non-native species
Developing our knowledge base in invasive or exotic species helps us to understand distribution patterns, areas of particular vulnerability and impacts on indigenous organisms. By continually building upon this foundation of knowledge we can provide useful information to conservation officers and those in the field of species management. We’re also helping to inform members of the public so that in turn, they can know more about what belongs in BC—and what doesn’t. Our work here allows us to understand and raise awareness of the potential impacts of climate change on human communities and natural ecosystems.

Program 11: Paleo-environment of BC
Our research into past environmental changes reveals ancient landscapes, how plant and animal distributions have changed and the reasons for them. The evolving environment also influenced how and where people lived. Our study of the history of the landscape, climate and plants and animals informs our understanding of the present-day and the implications of climate change. Our insights help identify gaps in our natural and human history collections and develop strategies to fill them.

Program 12: Taxonomy and phylogenetics
Basically, museum biologists study systematic biology (systematics), the field that (a) provides scientific names for organisms, (b) describes them, (c) preserves collections of them, (d) provides classifications for the organisms, (e) produces keys for their identification, (f) assembles data on their distributions (biogeography), (g) investigates their evolutionary histories and relationships (phylogenetics), and (h) considers their environmental adaptations. Taxonomy, narrowly defined, deals with functions a and b, but we can include classification and identification and other aspects here.

Program 13: Diversity
Museum biologists frequently assemble taxonomic, distributional, life-history, ecological, behavioral and other biological information on species and groups of species. This information goes into field guides, handbooks, annotated lists and so on. Such products are important in the basic documentation of the province’s biological diversity. They are useful to—and popular with—scientists and the general public alike.

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