Photographs and Documentary Art

The Photographs and Documentary Art collection consists of photographs and of paintings, drawings and prints. These records provide visual documentation of the history of the province from its earliest colonial days, and offer a vital resource to researchers of all kinds, from genealogists to biologists, anthropologists to art historians. Search our collection online.

BC Archives photo

The collection consists of approximately five million photographic images, including daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, glass negatives, lantern slides, modern transparencies, flexible film negatives, photographic prints of all varieties, photo albums, and photo-engraving plates. About 175,000 images have been described at the item level and are searchable online. About 80,000 of these have a digital image that can be viewed.

BC Archives art

We have approximately 10,000 paintings, drawings and prints depicting British Columbia, many of them by British Columbia artists. Almost all of these are described at the item level and are searchable online. About 6,000 of these have a digital image that can be viewed.

As well as the works of historically significant BC artists, there are many works by military personnel, surveyors, miners, pioneers and amateur sketchers. The images they created provide an invaluable visual record for researchers in a wide range of fields, from geology, biology and climate change to art history, sociology and anthropology.

Part of our collection predates the popularity of photography in the late 1860s and 1870s, and gives the only source of visual information about that period. We have many images of the province’s colonial days, and a few rare eighteenth-century views of exploration and the fur trade. Works in our collection are often used in exhibits as well as being used for reference and research.