I love old photos, whether they are portraits of my ancestors or historical photos for the period when they lived. And it is important to a complete research that one attempts to understand the environment that surrounds our ancestors' lives if one wants to truly appreciate what they went through.
So where can they be found? Obviously the best resource is our own photo albums and those that our relatives possess. But what about other resources? Many archives, historical societies, libraries and genealogical societies have collections of old photos. And in the past few years there has been a massive movement towards making these historical photo collections available online. Some have search capabilities where you can actually put in a surname or a location, name of a building or historical event and find what is available.
For the province of British Columbia, what collections are available for you to browse and/or search online? Here is a list of sites to start with. Please feel free to add in the comments other online resources that you might be aware of in the province.
Please be aware that there may be very strict rules regarding downloading or other use of the images that you may find. Copyright and other legal protections may be in force. Make sure that you read the limitations of use for any image that you find in these collections and wish to download and/or copy. It is your responsibility to adhere to the rules for all of these collections.
Please note that links to these sites may change in the future. The author (me) will not be constantly checking and updating these links, so if you find a broken link, please use your favorite search engine to locate the new link.
British Columbia Sites for Historical Photos
This is just a sampling of some of the larger collections. By no means is this an exhaustive list. Almost every city and county library in the province, college and university library, as well as historical society has a photo collection. Many are not available online, yet many do have online access.
(Updated March, 2019)
- Alberni Valley Museum Historic Photograph Collection
- Beautiful British Columbia Magazine Photo Archives
- Bulkley Valley Museum Photo Archive
- Canada BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives
- Canada Science and Technology Museum Picturing the Past
- Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack Historical Society
- Canadian Letters and Images Project
- Chilliwack Museum and Archives
- City of Vancouver Photo Archives
- City of Vancouver Photos
- City of Victoria Photo Archives
- Cowichan Valley Archives
- Deep Cove Heritage Society - North Vancouver
- Digitized Okanagan History
- Esquimalt Municipal Archives
- Fernie & District Historical Society Museum - Fernie
- Images of Canada
- Ingenium Canada Digital Photo Archives
- Jewish Museum and Archives Seidelman Photo Collection
- Lake Country Photo Gallery
- Langley Photographs
- New Westminster Photo Database
- Nicola Valley Museum & Archives
- Old Vancouver Photos
- Pender Harbour Living Heritage Society
- Royal BC Museum Photos and Documentary Art
- Saanich Photos
- Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique - Vancouver
- Simon Fraser University Photo Collections
- Sto:lo Research & Resource Management Centre
- Sunshine Coast Museum & Archives - Gibsons
- The Canadian Jewish Heritage Network
- The Reach - Gallery Museum Abbotsford
- UBC Historical Photographs
- UBC Open Collections
- UK - Canada Photo Collection
- University of British Columbia Archives Photo Collection
- University of Northern British Columbia Digitized Photograph Collections
- Unwritten Histories
- Vancouver Public Library Photo Collections
For historic photos from other provinces as well as articles about photo research, please visit the Photos page.
Good luck and happy hunting!