The Painting, Drawings and Prints collection has more than 10,500 works of art and published images. It includes drawings and paintings, engravings, sketch books, colonial broadsides, posters, textiles, pottery and busts. The collection spans more than 200 years and captures some of the earliest and rarest images of BC from the pre-photographic era. Four hundred and fifty artists are represented, with works from significant BC artists, amateurs, military personnel, surveyors, adventurers, watercolourists and early settlers.
Works were collected not for their artistic merit but for their documentary value. Many demonstrate people and their effect on the land; settler and Indigenous societies; and people in the landscape. They also depict maritime and overland exploration, trade and gold rushes, as well as botanical and faunal subject matter, and they include land- and seascapes; portraiture; architectural renderings; industrial, topographic and survey art; watercolours; and promotional art.
Foundational pieces acquired by the province include early British topographical works from the late eighteenth century and portraits representing settler society. Provincial archivists actively solicited works of art through purchase and donation, including 15 William George Richardson Hind gold rush–era portraits and landscapes, approximately 3,000 works by five artists in the Crease family, and works by Emily Carr. The Royal BC Museum and Archives has the world’s largest holdings of work by Emily Carr. These include 200 major works, 900 works on paper (mainly sketches and sketch books), 24 pottery pieces and 2 hooked rugs.
Many of these works have been described in our BC Archives collections search and more than 6,000 have a digital image available. You can search the entirety of these records by entering PDP* into the basic search bar.
To access original works of art, an appointment must be made with the Paintings, Drawings and Prints Collections Manager. Please submit your request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of these works have been featured in our Google Art Project.
To learn more about our other collections, see our Collections overview.
For other archives inquiries, see Contact us.