The past year has been a bit of a whirlwind at the Royal BC Museum and Archives, but the government records team has still been hard at work making new government records accessible to researchers.
All government records are covered by privacy legislation, including the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, meaning some records have access restrictions on sensitive or personal information.
Here is an overview of just a few of the record series from the last year that are now available in our database.
You can find some of the records made available last year here.
Handmade panorama images of Victoria’s Chinatown. The images were taken in the late 1970s as part of the effort to document historic buildings across Canada. Any buildings look familiar? (GR-4119, 939435-0005, file 10)
- GR-3676 Cabinet committees meeting case files*
- Part of the accrual to this series includes videocassettes of open cabinet meetings. One of the key commitments of the BC Liberal government's 2001 election platform was to hold open, televised Cabinet meetings that were broadcast live on the internet at least once a month. The Premier of the time, Gordon Campbell, stated this was to ensure that major capital spending decisions and land-use decisions involving the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), new parks, land claims and tenure reform were decided by Cabinet in public, not behind closed doors. From 2001 to 2004 the Liberal government held approximately 30 open Cabinet meetings.
- GR-3571 Premier’s correspondence*
- Large accruals to this series document the premiership of William “Bill” Bennett from 1975-1986 and the start of William “Bill” Vander Zalm’s time as premier.
VHS and Betacam videocassettes of open Cabinet meetings, December 3, 2002, from GR-3676.
- GR-3944 Records of the Attorney General*
- Large accruals to this series document the function and activities of the office of the Attorney General. Of note is a digital user copy of a VHS videotape (call number: F2022:01) in container 932388-0003, folder 2. The videotape provides an overview of Thomas R. Berger’s report addressing claims of sexual abuse at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf. The videotape also contains the ministerial statement of then-Attorney General, the Honorable Colin Gablemann, tabling Berger’s report to the Legislature on June 28, 1995.
Aerial photos documenting the 1948 Fraser River flood (GR-4075, 002503-0038).
- GR-4074 and GR-4075 Fraser River Board library and records
- One of the most devastating floods documented in the Fraser Valley occurred in 1948. The government responded by creating a board to study future flood control and hydroelectric opportunities in the Fraser River basin. These records include a huge volume of detailed field notes, data, reports, books (many unpublished) and photographs created over decades of studying the Fraser River.
- GR-4097 Censor of Moving Pictures Appeal Board records
- The censor was responsible for making sure movies shown at BC theatres did not depict any “scenes of an immoral or obscene nature”. This included things like crying babies, infidelity, snakes and American flags. These records document the movie production company’s appeals against the censor’s decisions to cut scenes from films or ban them entirely.
Records from GR-4097 appealing the censor’s decision to cut a scene from the 1931 film Dracula.
- GR-4098 Fish and Wildlife Branch executive records and correspondence*
- This correspondence was created by several executives working in the Fish and Wildlife Branch in the 1970s. The records relate to a wide variety of topics such as habitat protection, pollution, impacts of resource extraction projects, impacts of recreation activities, wildlife management, policy development, legislation, intergovernmental projects, and fisheries management.
- GR-4106 Skills development and fair wage investigation case files*
- This series documents the investigation of alleged non-compliance with fair wage legislation, which was enacted in 1993 and rescinded in 2001.
- GR-4107 Lytton, Kamloops and Ashcroft government agent records
- For the first several decades of BC’s existence, government agents were often the only government representative in many communities around the province. They created records about all government functions from marriage licences to recording mining claims or water rights. This series relates to the area around Kamloops.
The plan for the Nanaimo Vocational School on a lightboard from GR-4108. The related index information (GR-2184) is displayed along with the negative envelope.
- GR-4108 Public Works building plans: negatives*
- The series consists of approximately 23,000 photographic negatives created by the Department of Public Works between 1969 and 1978, to manage historic building plans and drawings of public buildings throughout British Columbia. The plans include those for law courts, highway maintenance yards, police buildings, hospitals and health centres, government office buildings, liquor stores, correctional centres and camps, sewage treatment plans, fire halls, civil defence buildings, vocational schools, universities, mental health institutions, provincial schools and the Provincial Legislative.
- GR-4112 Vancouver Island Road Tax Commissioner records
- These records document the collection of funds for, and construction of, many of the early roads in the colony of Vancouver Island from 1861-1871. Settler land owners were required to supply labour and funds for the construction of roads in their districts.
- GR-4113 Cariboo Wagon Road toll records
- The Cariboo wagon road was constructed to provide access to the Cariboo gold fields. These records record the cargo moving along the road and the collection of toll fees at various locations along the road from 1862-1883.
A page from GR-4114 album 1 (ca. 1950) which shows students demonstrating various vocational skills.
- GR-4114 Division of Visual Education photograph albums
- The series consists of six photograph albums created by the Division of Visual Education between 1947 and 1969, containing around 5,100 photographs. This agency was responsible for providing media services to public education institutions. The records document school sites and educational programs for elementary, secondary, college and university students in British Columbia.
- GR-4119 Canadian inventory of historic buildings surveys and photos
- The inventory was established in 1970 to record and photograph examples of pre-1924 (later pre-1948) architecture in Canada. The majority of these records are photos, negatives and survey forms documenting the condition and characteristics of historical buildings in the 1970s and early 1980s from all across BC. There are also files of detailed information on the history and construction of some buildings.
Images of the Royal Bank on Government Street in Victoria, now Munro’s Books, in 1955 and c.1970 (GR-4119).
- GR-4121 New Westminster Land Commissioner files
- These series offer a comprehensive history of land use in the Fraser Valley and lower Fraser canyon over almost 100 years. Most of the records were created by the Canadian government while the land was being managed by them as part of the “Railway Belt”.
- GR-4124 Records of the postal service
- This series consists of records related to the postal service operated in the colony of British Columbia, from 1858-1871. Most records document the movement of mail between the Cariboo district and New Westminster along the Fraser Canyon.
- GR-4130 Unemployment relief files*
- The series consists of files created by the Unemployment Relief Branch between 1934 and 1941 and mostly relate to relief farm work on Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island. Includes applications for farm workers, applications for placement on a farm and relief case cards.
- GR-4144 Correspondence of Alexander Malcolm Manson
- This series consists of Alexander Malcolm Manson’s correspondence written in 1923 in British Columbia. The records were created during Manson’s time as a member of the provincial legislature representing the Omineca riding (1916-1933) and his appointment as Attorney General, King’s Counsel, and as Minister of Labour on April 12, 1922. He was Attorney General of BC from 1922 to 1928. The correspondence documents his personal life and career during this time period.
An 1891 map of Vancouver showing the path of the Canadian Pacific Railway, from GR-4121.
- GR-4146 Records of the Commissariat Department
- The commissariat department was part of the British Army’s Royal Engineers Columbia Detachment. The commissariat was responsible for the supply of food and equipment for the detachment. The records were created between 1858 and 1864 and relate to the establishment of Columbia detachment, the projects completed in the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, and the auction of assets when the detachment was disbanded.
- GR-4153 Board of Railway Commissioners of Canada western railway rates case
- The series consists of the Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada western railway rates case. The western railway rates case investigated the rates for the carriage of freight traffic on railway lines operating in Canada, west of Port Arthur, Ontario (1912-1913). The results of the investigation concluded that the higher freight rates in Western Canada might be discriminatory but they were justified and reasonable because of the greater competition that the railway companies faced in the eastern provinces.
Board of Railway Commissioners for Canada western rates case GR-4153, volume 1 , 1912.
- GR-4155 Condolence books for the death of Queen Elizabeth II
- Two bound condolence books created following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, 2022. The books were created by Government House for members of the public to write condolences and memories of the Queen.
- Lots and lots of wills
- It was previously common practice for court registries to separate original wills from their respective probate files and send the wills to the Central Probate Registry in Victoria under a new accession number. As a result, many probate files contain only photocopies of wills and connecting the two original records can be difficult. During the 2010s, many separated wills were returned to their court registries before then being transferred to the BC Archives for permanent retention. In 2022, seventeen new series of original wills (predominately between 1986 and 1998) were processed. Over time, the practice of separating original wills and probates came to an end and original wills are now routinely included within their original probate file.
- Orders in Council (OiCs) internal file lists
- Though black and white copies of OiCs are available online via BCLaws or on microfilm in the reference room, researchers sometimes require access to original OiCs in order to see coloured details (e.g., highlighted areas on maps). Locating the original OiC associated with a particular digital or microfilmed copy and/or map previously often meant cross referencing several unformatted, lengthy accession documents and internal databases. A single file list has now been created for all 820 containers of original OiCs, with their corresponding microfilm reels, (often separated) oversized attachments, and any emptied boxes. The file list is available sorted by original container number or by date. Ask archives staff for a copy.
*These series include sensitive personal information or other restricted records that are not publicly accessible.
A black and white copy and the original colour version of a map from OIC 114-1992.