This year, 2019, marks the 125th anniversary of the passing of the legislation establishing the Legislative Library.

It soon became known as the Provincial Library, and as RBCM Archivist Genevieve Weber explains, it was the birth of what became the B.C. Archives.

R.E. Gosnell was appointed the first legislative librarian.  Right away, he began working to collect historical data.

Weber says that Gosnell “put out a call to the province to have people donate information, and records, pamphlets, any historical documentation, colonial records, to start collecting and preserving those items for the province.”

Because prior to that request, a lot of this documentation had been going back to the United Kingdom.

“Not everybody stayed in the province,” says Weber, “when the province joined Confederation.  Some people went back to England, and they took their records with them.”

Some of the items that Gosnell managed to collect during his time included books in the B.C. Archives Northwest Coast Historical Collection, particularly of early explorers such as Captain George Vancouver and Captain James Cook.

Weber points out that she wants all British Columbians to know that the B.C. Archives collections continue to grow.

“We collect photographs. We have over five million photographs in our collections. We also have audiovisual materials, sound recordings, oral history interviews, and music or news or radio shows that were done in the past. Same with moving picture images, maps, architectural drawings and plans.”

Government ministries from across the province also regularly transfer boxes of material.

“We have a whole team of archivists that manage processing those records,” says Weber, “making sure they’re available to the public.”

If you are interested in learning more about the history of the B.C. Archives and the Royal B.C. Museum, you’re encouraged to look into this recently published book: The Collectors.

Veronica Cooper