What's in our holdings

The City of Vancouver Archives acquires a variety of records that document the city's history.

When you explore what's in our holdings, these are the kinds of records that you can find.

City Government records and publications

These are records produced by the local civic government that have long-term legal, administrative, and historical value. More than 1,000 linear metres of records date from Vancouver's incorporation in 1886.

City Government publications are reports and notices published by various City departments. The Archives has more than 3,000 items dating from the 1900s to the present day.

Private-sector records

The Archives actively acquires records documenting the social, political, economic, cultural, and community life of Vancouver from non-government sources.

A fascinating history has been carefully preserved by acquiring personal papers from individuals and organizations who have generated or collected materials of significant bearing on the history of Vancouver. The donors include:

  • Pioneer families
  • Politicians
  • Social activists
  • Artists
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Community organizations


The Archives has more than one million images from private-sector and public-sector records. These photographs portray a wide range of subjects from Vancouver's history and culture from the 1860s to the present. They bring to life the social, cultural, and economic realities of the city's past, as well as the everyday activities of generations of Vancouver's citizens.

Moving images

The Archives moving image holdings include films created by City departments, such as Engineering, Park Board, and Fire & Rescue.

The collection also includes home movies of Vancouver events and social life, and documentaries.

Maps and plans

Vancouver maps

Our holdings include over 4,000 maps, dating from the late 1700s to the present day. The maps, most of which are of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, come from a variety of sources, both public and private. They are indexed by place, subject and date and are on microfiche for easy access.

Architectural plans

We hold thousands of architectural plans from local companies and individuals dating from ca. 1910 to the 1960s.

Fire insurance plans

We hold fire insurance plans of Vancouver from 1885 to the 1960s. A few of the plans also depict other areas of the Lower Mainland. These also are on microfiche for easy access.

Ship's plans

Our collection of ship's plans consists of over 1000 plans of commercial and private vessels who sailed local waters from the late 1700s to 1980. The plans are indexed by name of vessel, ship's architect, ship builder, company and date. These also on are microfiche for easy access.


Pamphlets are printed materials documenting many of the social and cultural events that have taken place in Vancouver from 1860 to the present, and include:

  • Brochures
  • Programs
  • Advertising broadsheets
  • Political commentaries
  • Calling cards
  • Menus

News clippings

The Archives has extensive clipping files dating from the 1920s to the present. They are an excellent source of information on Vancouver:

  • Politics
  • Events
  • Issues
  • Prominent individuals


The Archives has over 2,000 works of art on a variety of historical local subjects from 1886 to the present, including:

  • Oil paintings
  • Watercolours
  • Engravings
  • Portraits
  • Cartoons

Although access to some of these works is restricted for conservation reasons, researchers may view colour slides of many of them. The cartoons are available on microfilm.


The Archives has a collection of over 2,500 books on British Columbia and Vancouver history, dating from the late 18th century.

These books are available for use in the Archives Reading Room only.

Special projects that you can view online

Major Matthews' Early Vancouver

Written between 1931 and 1956, the seven-volume Early Vancouver series, documenting Vancouver’s early history, was available only in hard copy in the Archives’ Reading Room. Now, you can now view it online, as a new, fully searchable 2011 edition.

McLennan, McFeely & Co Ltd Catalogue 1908-14

This published catalogue features detailed illustrations of all goods on its 1400+ pages, including machinery, farm equipment, ship chandlery, house and kitchen furnishings, sporting goods, paint, lumbering and hardware. View the catalogue online.

Freedom of information requests and released information

Learn how to request our records, view records we've released, and find out how we collect, use, and share your information.

Donating records to the Archives

Learn how to donate your historical records, including from your business or organization, to the City Archives for preservation.

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Museum of Vancouver

Our exhibitions are Vancouver centric and designed to make the viewer think not just about the objects, but their greater context. We've played host to two Venice Biennale in Architecture projects. We've even gone so far as to hire a Curator of Contemporary Issues. We are a bold, contemporary museum, and we can't wait for you to visit.

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