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Posts about local history and Oak Bay Archives holdings from the municipal archivist and archives volunteers.


Oak Bay Archives historic photographs

More about Oak Bay archives

Archives access in 2022

Contact the archivist

Posts about local history and Oak Bay Archives holdings from the municipal archivist and archives volunteers.


Oak Bay Archives historic photographs

More about Oak Bay archives

Archives access in 2022

Contact the archivist

  • Local schools activity - building history of Oak Bay Avenue

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    Oak Bay Avenue 100 years ago

    Above: Oak Bay Avenue section of 1911 municipal planning map.

    What was different in 1921?

    OBA PHOT 2010-010-001

    There was a streetcar track along the north side of the road. The Oak Bay streetcar ran from downtown up Fort St, along Oak Bay Avenue and then down Newport to Windsor Park. It was built 1891 and ran until 1948. In the early days of the streetcar, a lot of Oak Bay was still farmland, and cows sometimes wandered onto the tracks! More here

    The road was not paved, and there were no concrete sidewalks either.

    There were many more single family homes with gardens on Oak Bay Avenue in 1921 than there are now. Only one is left (I think), at 2150 Oak Bay Avenue, next to Bosley’s pet supplies. There is a huge hedge in the front; more of the house is visible from Theatre Lane. The house was built by a Mr Henderson in 1910 – the same one that Henderson Road in north Oak Bay is named after. He was Reeve (Mayor) of Oak Bay 1909-11. It’s been divided into apartments but the outside looks the same. More about him:

    Elgin Road was called Burns St.

    Granite St was called Gonzales Ave. More about street name changes here

    Some of the address/house numbers have changed as occupancy became denser.

    OBA PHOT 2012/001/048

    Oak Bay High School was where the Municipal Hall is now (2167). It had four classrooms.

    OBA PHOT 2016-005-002

    The first municipal hall building was where Pharmasave is now. Photo:

    There was a movie theatre on Oak Bay Avenue (the Avenue Theatre at 2013, not the later Oak Bay Theatre at 2188 – both buildings are still standing but have changed purposes)

    You can see which people and businesses occupied properties on Oak Bay Avenue in the City Directory: - in the left hand menu, choose ‘Victoria Streets’ and then ‘O’ for Oak Bay Avenue.

    Detail of Oak Bay Avenue listings in 1921 Victoria directory - full page here

    What is the same now as it was in 1921?

    Oak Bay Avenue and many of the side streets had the names we know: Hampshire, Monterey, Oliver, Wilmot, Yale, Mitchell.

    Some house numbers have changed over the years. Lot numbers as on the map above (not the same as address numbers) are attached to the land and not the buildings. These have stayed the same, so we can trace the history of different buildings on the same site as old ones are renovated, extended, demolished and replaced.

    There were lots of different shops and businesses on Oak Bay Avenue as well as homes, though not as many as now. There were even apartment buildings 100 years ago.

    OBA PHOT 1994-001-017

    The building at the NW corner of Oak Bay Avenue and Monterey was already built by 1921, and looked much the same as it does now. It was a grocery store for many years, and then a tearoom (café) for many more. Now it’s the Oaks Restaurant. The low building next to it has had an upper storey added.

    OBA PHOT 2019-018-006

    The same brick building now at 2209 Oak Bay Avenue was already there in 1921. It was built in 1913 as apartments above stores, which is how it’s still used. Can you find its name over the door in the middle?

    Businesses on Oak Bay Avenue in 1921 included: pharmacy, grocery, bakery, furniture, bank, dry goods (fabrics and clothes), hardware, post office. They are not exactly the same businesses or in the same places, but we do have the same kinds of businesses on the Avenue today. What other kinds of businesses are on Oak Bay Avenue these days?

  • Principals of Oak Bay High School

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    1915 - 1923 Henry Pollock Hope (1877-1937)

    1923 - 1929 Gordon Downes (1890-1929)

    1929 – 1930 Thomas Saward (Tom) Whittemore (1892-1969)

    1930 - 1932 George M Billings

    1932 – 1952 Dunmail Horatio Hartness (1893-1953)

    1951 - 1963 Charles A Gibbard (1898-1988)

    1953 Junior High School opens

    1953 - 1966 Rudyard T. Kipling (1900-1984) (junior high)

    1963 - 1970 Jack G. Wallace (senior high)

    1966 - 1973 Peter A Boldt (junior high)

    1970 - 1975 David Voth (senior high)

    1973 - 1977 Jack Drummond (junior high)

    1976 - 1980 Donald Macdonald (senior/amalgamated)

    1979 Junior & Senior schools amalgamated

    1980 - 1983 Keith Bickmore

    1983 - 1993 Court Brousson

    1993 - 2002 Doug Shaw

    2002 - 2017 Dave Thomson

    2017 - 2020 Randi Falls

    2020 - Tom Aerts


    Gillian Fosdick, 'The history of Oak Bay Senior High School', 1972 online here

    Gary Wilcox, Oak Bay Encyclopedia online here

    UBC Totem yearbook 1929 online here

    BC Archives, death certificate of DH Hartness online here

    __________, " " " TS Whittemore online here

    Brentwood College School, The Brentonian yearbook 1937, obituary of HP Hope online here

    City directories, passim online here

    British Colonist newspaper, passim online here

    Daily Times newspaper, passim online here

    Oak Bay News online here

    Questions? Comments? Please contact the Archivist

    Photo Search:
    Blog posts:

    Phone: 250-598-3290

    - Post by Anna Sander, 12 July 2022

  • Marbled Endpapers

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    Something for #MarbledMonday - a selection of marbled paper covers and endpapers I'm encountering as I accession and catalogue old ledgers, historic corporate records transferred to Archives last year. More about the contents and arrangement later, but for now an unexpected array of colours and patterns from the carapaces of otherwise mostly prosaic codices:

    This one looks to me like the patterns made by sunlight through water over rippled sand.

    I'm surprised how very worn this inside cover is.

    To see larger images, right-click on a photo and select 'open in new tab'. Then to magnify further, click on the image if a little magnifying glass appears.

    Well, there's no getting around it, this one just looks like salami.

    Classic red nonpareil pattern - very common but no less one of my favourites.

    This looks like a moonscape - made of green cheese? The bumps are from water damage that has caused distortion in the pulp board underneath.

    More of same water damage here.

    Spectacular bright colours on black - like fireworks.

  • Jubilee Bunting

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    My Jubilee Bunting for today is Alice Olive Bunting, known as Olive, Clerk/Bookkeeper at Oak Bay municipal offices 1915-21. Born on 1 February 1893 in Morton (Boissevain), Manitoba, to English parents Herbert and Mary Ellen Bunting, she moved to Victoria - and Oak Bay - with her family ca. 1910, where her father worked as a building contractor until his death in 1917. Olive graduated from St Ann's Academy aged 18 in June 1911, receiving a Gold Medal for typewriting. She worked as a stenographer (shorthand typist) for Bell Development Co. before taking up the clerical post at Oak Bay Municipal Hall. In 1920 her Oak Bay salary was $115/month.

    (An Olive Bunting turns up doing well in school in Greenwood BC in 1908 (British Colonist 14 July 1908, p.7). Could Herbert Bunting have moved his family there from Manitoba before travelling further west to Victoria? I don't have access to a 1908 BC directory, if there was one.)

    Olive and her mother experienced a double loss in 1917 - Herbert Bunting died on 29 October, aged 61, barely two weeks before son Archie was killed in action in France, aged 28. Mary Ellen Bunting continued to live in the family home at 1461 Hampshire until her death in November 1936.

    In 1921 Olive married James Alexander Munro (1884-1958), Chief Federal Migratory Birds Officer for the western provinces, and went to live in Okanagan Landing, just outside Vernon on the north end of Okanagan Lake. James had been widowed in 1919 and had a young daughter, Isobel Alison (born 1915, later Mrs GN Cull). Together Olive and James Munro had a son, David Aird Munro (1923-2004).

    James Munro's ornithological career is outlined in Baillie, below, and his academic papers are listed in the BC Provincial Museum's annual report of 1963, here. The 1926 and earlier BC Directories list James Munro of Okanagan Landing as 'naturalist'; 1927-55 Vernon City & North Okanagan/BC Directories as 'game warden BC Govt'. Olive made her husband's papers available to at least one researcher after his death - did she arrange the disposal of his collections? Particularly given her relevant professional background, was she involved in creating and organizing her husband's records during his career? The relevant museums will have accession records. (Interested? see #ThanksforTyping.)

    Olive Munro returned to Victoria in 1967, living only a block from her former school at 1005 Pakington Street (1967-86). By the 1980s her son, a conservation policy consultant, was living in Sidney. Olive Munro died in January 1993, only a few weeks short of her hundredth birthday.


    James Baillie, 'In memoriam: James Alexander Munro'. Auk (Journal of the American Ornithological Society) Vol 86 (1969), pp. 626-630. Downloaded from on 03 June 2022

    'In Woman's Realm'. Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper, 28 June 1911, p.8. Accessed 6 June 2022: .

    'Sergt. Bunting Gives Life For Country.' Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper, 29 November 1917, p.5. Accessed 6 June 2022

    Funeral notice for Herbert Bunting. Victoria Daily Colonist newspaper, 2 November 1917, p.7. Accessed 6 June 2022

    BC death certificate for Alice Olive Munro. Digital image via BC Archives

    BC death certificate for Herbert Bunting. Digital image via BC Archives.

    BC death registration for Mary Ellen Bunting, no. 1936-09-520629 . Search at

    BC marriage certificate for James Alexander Munro and Alice Olive Bunting. Digital image via BC Archives

    BC City Directories, passim.

    District of Oak Bay, Council Minutes 1921, p.2 etc.

    Ottawa Citizen newspaper. Obituary: "James A. Munro, Ornithologist, passes here, 74." Digital image via

    Victor Lewin, 'The Introduction and current state of California Quail in the Oakanagan Valley of British Columbia.' The Condor, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1965), pp. 61-66. Accessed 6 June 2022:

    Description of JA Munro fonds at Royal Ontario Museum via Archeion

  • Project #Archive 30, April 2022

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    This post is a collection of @OakBayArchives tweets for #Archive30, an annual outreach initiative from the Archives & Records Association of Scotland for which archivists and archive workers and volunteers post features from their collections in response to daily prompts. An advantage of repeating the tweets in blog post form is that the text for each photo is not limited to 280 characters, allowing for expansion of abbreviations and more information where available.

    Time for the annual round of #Archive30 themed tweets! This year I'll focus on a current project, digitization and cataloguing of Bert Howell's photos (OBA PR 198). Day 1 #YourArchive, the Howell collection as laid out soon after arrival in the archives in 2017 by @_cmduncan, showing several different negative & positive photo formats. And yes, gloves are generally required for handling photographic media, though I'm using nitrile rather than the stereotypical white cotton.

    Clean dry hands are usually preferable to any kind of gloves for handling documents on paper of parchment, but photographic media are often chemically less stable and more sensitive to the oils and salt on even clean hands, so gloves are best for handling any prints or negatives not in individual protective enclosures. Cotton gloves can catch or leave fibres on photos, which is why we tend to use latex or nitrile gloves instead.

    Day 2 of #Archive30, a #TypicalDay digitizing glass plate and individual film negatives, and generating positive digital images. Equipment: the aforementioned nitrile gloves, dry-erase pen for labelling, a not-superlative phone camera & light box, Paint software. Extra cost: 0. Quality: sub-professional, of course, but more than adequate for access to the information in the photos and to facilitate future background research. Also good to avoid sending the collection offsite and to keep light exposure to a minimum. #DIYdigi

    One wrinkle I discovered while taking digital photographs of a fluorescent light box is that the light in fact has a flicker, thanks to alternating current electricity. This flicker produces weird dark-orange stripes in the photos, example shown above. I was able to fiddle with the manual settings on my phone camera to get rid of the stripes, but the images were somewhat overexposed. On inversion, this made the generated positive images underexposed, so more correction was required, but no significant information was lost - certainly any lack of exactitude in the exposure aspect of reproduction is far outweighed by having the first access to positive images of these photographs in 50+ years.

    Day 3 of #Archive30. Speaking of inverting negative images and adjusting exposure settings on the generated positives, here are three versions of one of several BA Howell self portraits in the collection. Was this a glow in the dark experiment? How did he get the teeth to glow like that? Ultraviolet light would make his white shirt collar stand out as well. I hope he wasn't using radioactive toothpaste... Anyway, Bert's teeth in this photo are certainly #SomethingScary. Look closely for evidence of touching up on the negative, around the mouth.

    Day 4 of #Archive30, the Giant Whirl ride in Seattle's Luna Park (operated 1907-1913 at Alki Point, West Seattle) was #SomethingBig. Howell identifies its location incorrectly as 'Madrona Park'. Did he have a professional interest in the amusement park's impressive illuminations? Maybe we'll find out one day - so much more research potential in this collection.

    Day 5 of #Archive30. Due to a lack of captions or contextual records, Bert Howell's photos are full of #UntoldStories. This young woman, shown here in an urban setting and wearing a fashionable hat, high lace collar and brooch, appears many times in his Portland period, identified only as "Bunches" and "Ida". One places her living at 83 7th St, Portland OR in 1907/8. Who was she? If the address was a boarding house, city directories may not list individual tenants, but it would be good to check.

    Day 6 of #Archives30. Teeth again. #HealthArchives can turn up in unexpected places, such as these dental records in Bert Howell's WW1 attestation papers from Library and Archives Canada (the national archives). Aged 40, he was in France with the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC) 1917-1919 - and had pretty good teeth!

    Canada did not bring in WW1 conscription until the Military Service Act of 29 August 1917. Bert Howell signed up 6 weeks before that, less than a month before his 40th birthday. Were electricians a reserved occupation in Canada during WW1? more questions to come, more research to do...

    Day 7 of #Archive30. Not many personal/family photo collections include pictures of early hydroelectric power plants, but Bert Howell visited and photographed them at Myrtle Creek, Falls City & Wilhelmina, Oregon, and Doty, Washington - presumably as part of his Portland-based work as an electrician/electrical machinist. #UnusualItem

    Bonus entry, another Day 7 of #Archive 30, high wire rewiring. This #UnusualItem shows a young woman on scaffolding atop Portland's Meier & Frank department store building. The signs were illuminated - was Bert Howell changing some lightbulbs? This picture is not dated - maybe there are clues in the Meier & Frank archives within the holdings of the Oregon Historical Society.

    Day 8 of #Archive30. Want to know more about #YourWorkplace (that is #MyWorkplace)? There's a photo tour for that! Click here As ever, information and research assistance are available from the (half time) archivist by phone, email, carrier pigeon etc.

    Day 9 of #Archive30. Define the differences between #DigitalArchives #DigitizedArchives #DigitalCollection #DigitalImage #ElectronicRecords #BornDigital ... Anyway, somebody will be able to identify this distinctive mountain (probably BC, may be reversed), shown here in an undated snowy landscape. From the single film negative in Bert Howell's photos (OBA PR 198).

    Day 12 of #Archive30. If the two pieces of this large glass plate negative (positive shown here) are ever reunited, that will be a #ConservationWin. No date or IDs, but the painted backdrop and theatrical period costumes set this and several other similar negatives apart as studio photos, rare in BA Howell's collection.

    Day 14 of #Archive30. There's no caption written on the negative itself, but the sparse index for the little album of cellophane sleeves housing this one corresponds accurately: a crawfish picnic (probably in Portland OR ca 1908) for #ArchiveFoodandDrink. Ida/"Bunches" appears again in the centre. Most early photographs are stiffly posed formal portraits, but by the early years of the 20th century, and the introduction of the first truly portable 'box' cameras, informal private photography became possible.

    Day 19 of #Archive30. For instant whimsy, swap hats: #ArchiveAdvice and yet more #ArchiveFashion, notably puffed sleeves and a strikingly striped tie. Bert Howell and friend, another picnic. There is the ghost of another picture on this one, maybe an accidentalpartial double exposure. OBA PR 198 temp ref Howell Box 3-01-05

    Day 20 of #Archive30. A young woman, dressed in the height of #ArchiveFashion rational dress for ?ca.1908 in stockings, cycling bloomers and jacket, and with her hair tucked up under a cap, prepares to push off on her bicycle from a convenient perch against a fence. Another young woman is almost out of frame, showing only the front of her skirt and a blurred half of her face. OBA PR 198, BA Howell photos.

    Day 25 of #Archive 30. For #SportArchives, Bert Howell presents to you: Extreme Sitting, ca. 1908 edition. "On Top of Fliedner Block, Washington St, Portland Oregon". Built 1905-6, the Fliedner building was already far from the tallest in Portland, but provided great views of the growing city.

    Day 26 of #Archive30. More of Bert Howell's #ArchivePeople, foot passengers disembarking from the "ferry across Columbia River, Vancouver Washington", ie between Vancouver WA and Portland OR, ca 1907-1909. Lots of ferry history on this coast! This ship is also called the "Vancouver".

    Day 29 of #Archive30. Next #ArchiveGoals digitization project: the family photo album of RR Taylor (1884-1942), who held the position of Reeve (i.e. Mayor) of Oak Bay 1936-40. Here, several photos of Drake's Hardware company picnic, ca.1914 (no date on photo). Drake's Hardware store at this time was downtown at 1418 Douglas, with another branch, briefly, on Oak Bay Ave. RR Taylor was company secretary. Samuel Drake also served as Oak Bay's Reeve 1920-22.

    Questions? Please get in touch!


    Photo Search:

    Blog posts:


    Phone: 250-598-3290

    - Post by Anna Sander, 9 May 2022.

    To cite: Sander, Anna. (2022, May). 'Project #Archive 30, April 2022.' [Blog post]. District of Oak Bay, Archives. Retrieved from [date].

  • May at Municipal Hall

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    May flowers and new leaves, slower than usual this spring but beautiful on a sunny day

  • A first look at Bert Howell's photos - Municipal Hall foyer display March 2022

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    Recently I've been processing a 2017 accession, several hundred photographs in a number of formats, mainly individual film negatives and positives and several sizes of glass plate negatives.

    The photographer was Bertram Archer, known as Bert, Howell. Most of the photos in the Oak Bay collection are undated; the few with dates fall between 1905 and 1908, when Bert Howell was living in Portland, Oregon. This is a first glimpse into the collection: more family history research, and investigation of photo subjects, remains to be done. Stay tuned for future updates as the collection is processed further.

    Bert Howell 1877-1972

    • 1877 Bertram Archer Howell, born Cowes, Isle of Wight, to parents Alfred and Jane Howell
    • 1886 arrives Victoria with parents and several siblings; family first lives in Fernwood
    • Alfred farms (market gardens), builds family home at 1940, later renumbered 2064, Marrion St
    • 1890s Bert works as messenger for David Spencer dry goods store, then apprentices as electrician and works at George C Hinton’s.
    • 1902 Bert in Whitehorse to help install one of Canada’s first automatic telephone exchanges
    • 1905 Bert moves to Portland Oregon, to set up lighting and wiring for Lewis and Clark Exposition, lives there until Expo closes in 1911. (Another Oak Bay connection - John Olmsted, planner of the uplands subdivision, also planned the Lewis & Clark exposition grounds [source]) More about the Expo, and the electrical installations required, from the Oregon State Archives: link
    • Returns to parents’ house in Victoria, works on wiring and lighting for the BC Legislature buildings (the 1912-1915 additions?).
    • Serves aged 40 in Canadian Forestry Corps overseas WW1, 1917-19
    • Continues to live in his parents’ house with unmarried sister Helen, working as an electrician until retirement 1951 [source: city directories]
    • Prolific amateur photographer – sister Kathleen (Lena) worked in photography studios.
    • The Oak Bay Archives Howell collection is only one lot from the sale held when Bert vacated the house in Marrion Street near the end of his life. Do any of the other lots of photographs or other material survive?
    • Marrion Street was redeveloped by the municipality to create the Oak Bay Recreation Centre on Bee Street; its name survives in the Marrion Village Baptist Housing complex.
    • More photos from the collection will be appearing at

    Display themes:

    Portland 1907-08

    ‘My Home Two Years’ – Dunning McEntee & Gilbaugh Undertakers & Embalmers on the ground floor, with furnished rooms above: 1-3-5 7th St x Pine, Portland OR.

    All dressed up, Bert Howell (3rd from left) and unidentified friends, outside the corner of the same building.

    On top of the Meier & Frank department store building in downtown Portland with an unidentified young woman, who also appears high up among the illuminated letters of the (rooftop?) MEIER & FRANK sign. Meier & Frank celebrated a 50th anniversary in 1907 with extra illumination around the exterior of the building – Bert Howell may have been involved with the electrical preparations and installation.

    Foot passengers disembark up the gangway from the “Ferry across Columbia River, Vancouver Washington”.

    “Geo + Lena B. Council Crest /08” – George and Lena (Kathleen) Brownlee, Bert’s sister and brother in law, visiting Portland in 1908.

    Déjeuner sur l'herbe, a picnic with friends. The young woman in the centre is identified in other photos as 'Bunch' and ‘Ida’, of Portland.

    Early hydroelectric power in the Pacific Northwest

    • Bert Howell’s Oregon photos show a professional interest in street lighting and exterior building illumination, and early hydroelectric plants.
    • Outdoor urban lighting development was closely connected to development of hydroelectric generating capacity, especially in the Columbia River Basin, and long-distance electricity transmission
    • Photos often combine an electrician’s focus with aesthetic appreciation of both machinery and natural settings

    Documenting hydropower plants at Myrtle Creek (possibly Idaho), Willamina and Falls City, Oregon, and Doty, Washington, not dated [1905-1911].

    Canadian forestry corps, WW1

    P.1 of Bert Howell’s Attestation (WW1 Army registration) papers, 1917. Online here

    Crowded troop tender – outside Victoria?

    Bert Howell (R), aged 40, and two Army colleagues

    Canadian soldiers in camp – a group in front of bell tents, Bert Howell seated at right

    Canadian Army camp – open truck marked O.H.M.S. (On Her Majesty’s Service) carrying soldiers on a partly gravelled road bordered by whitewashed rocks, a row of tents and a low white building in background.

    Canadian soldiers preparing to board a Canadian Pacific troop train. Station shed roof marking ends “NAGE”.

    Two photos of life in Army barracks and/or on board troop ship for England.

    Victoria BC

    Park and fountain – Gorge or Butchart? Not dated.

    Empress Hotel, downtown Victoria. Undated photo, Empress completed 1908.

    ‘Connie, Mrs Fisher, Mr Fisher, Oak Bay Ave’. See e.g. LJ Fisher, blacksmith, Mitchell St off Oak Bay Ave (1908 city directory)

    ‘Old Exibition [sic] Bldgs Victoria BC’ – Willows Fairground, the ‘Crystal Palace’. Undated, [1891-1907].

    Victoria inner harbour from Songhees, near Esquimalt end of Johnson St bridge.

    Gorge Bridge

    ‘Picnic, Head of Gorge’.

    Questions? Please get in touch!


    Photo Search:

    Blog posts:


    Phone: 250-598-3290

    - Post by Anna Sander, 1 May 2022.

    To cite: Sander, Anna. (2022, May). 'A first look at Bert Howell's photos - Municipal Hall foyer display March 2022'. [Blog post]. District of Oak Bay, Archives. Retrieved from [date].

  • Spring at Municipal Hall

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    Recent blooms in the gardens on Oak Bay Avenue

    All photos by Anna Sander, March 2022

  • Archives Q&A

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    Capturing some of the excellent questions from a recent school session:

    Q: When did the Oak Bay Archives start?

    A: The Municipality started producing and keeping its own records in 1906, and some of our personal and family papers are even older than that, but the District Archives were formally started by a team of dedicated volunteers, mainly for collecting community records, in 1994. The volunteer team was able to bring in a professional consultant archivist for a few hours a week starting in 2012, and that position grew into a half-time municipal employee role in 2016. I'm the District's second professional archivist and I started here in May 2020.

    Q: Why are the Archives at Municipal Hall?

    A: The corporate records, which are the core of any institutional archive, are created and used here, and stored until their current-business 'life' is finished, so from a District point of view it makes sense to have the historic archives under the same roof, for easy transfer and reference, and good coordination with current and semicurrent records management. The Municipal hall is in the heart of Oak Bay and is the centre of local government, so it's also a logical location for the collection of community records. There isn't another building nearby that could provide public access space, staff working space and large volumes of secure storage space. In other municipalities, amenities are different: Esquimalt and Saanich both accommodate their archives in community centre buildings separate from their municipal halls, though very close by in Esquimalt's case, and the City of Victoria Archives are just across Centennial Square from City Hall.

    Q: Why are the Archives in the basement?

    A: Archives very often are in the basement! Sometimes that's where the available storage space is, sometimes it's less desirable office space. At Oak Bay, it's very convenient to have the Archives on the lower floor because there's room for researchers, staff, extensive reference materials and archives storage, all with a step-free entrance near by. Using the side entrance, Archives researchers can (normally) come straight to the Archives without needing to go through main reception upstairs. And it doesn't feel like a basement - it's dry and we have big windows that open onto the lawn :D

    Q: What do archives do?

    "Archives" can mean both historic records and the places where they are preserved and consulted.

    - Archival records show the written parts of organizational functions and people's lives. Sometimes this includes visual records and other media as well.

    - Archival repositories provide a safe place for historic records to be stored, preserved and processed by archivists and consulted by researchers. Provenance documentation and custodial continuity are a key part of archivists' work, because they support records' authenticity - that is, by systematically recording where records come from and having systems in place for tracking access to them, we can be sure that what we have now is the same as what we had years ago, and hasn't been deliberately or accidentally changed - or if changes have occurred (such as further accessions, weeding, conservation work, flood damage etc) those changes are identified and added to the descriptions.

    Q: Are the archives arranged alphabetically like the school library?

    No - we arrange some of the small collections of single or very few items in boxes in order of acquisition, purely for efficient storage and ease of finding. We arrange larger fonds (series of records systematically created by the same person or organization) as they were created and used, often by function and chronological order. Because archival items and collections vary in size and shape, archivists often store them according to size or appropriate housing rather than in alphabetical or chronological order. We use location registers to check what's where on each shelf.

    Q: Have any of Oak Bay's archives been stolen or gone missing?

    Not that we know of. But there have been some mishaps: creation and/or preservation of building permits in the earliest years of the municipality wasn't consistent, many building records were lost in a bad winter flood in 1949, and others were lost in a general clear-out at the time of the move to the present Municipal Hall building in the 1950s. Some of the latter were kept back from destruction and dispersed, so while they are lost to the Archives for now, it's still possible that they may turn up one day.

    Q: How many archives are there in Oak Bay?

    Since many archives are private, I don't know! I do know that there are many serious private collectors of local history records and memorabilia, and that schools, families, businesses and community organizations in Oak Bay do have their own archives: some examples are the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, Glenlyon-Norfolk School, the Oak Bay High School Alumni Association, and the photographs of Dr Jeffree Cunningham.

    Q: How many things are there in Oak Bay's archives?

    A: Short answer - I haven't counted them! Definitely tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of individual items. I'll start by counting the number of linear shelf metres and boxes, so stay tuned for a better answer...

    Q: What happens if we have an atmospheric river and it causes flooding, could the archives get flooded?

    A: It could. We always have to allow for the possibility of natural and man-made disasters happening in the archives - problems arise more often than you might think, and most archivists will deal with at least a minor flood at some point in their careers. Many kinds of disasters cause a lot of damage, but they don't often completely destroy archives - repairing archival material is a highly trained specialist job known as archival conservation. We take as many preventive measures as possible, and also train and equip ourselves as well as we can to be prepared to respond to disasters quickly and effectively. Here's a good quick overview about archives disaster preparedness from Queensland State Archives in Australia, and a longer discussion with conservators from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives in the United States.

    Q: Do the archives take photos?

    A: Do we go out and take pictures of how things are these days, and put them away for posterity? Not usually. That's active collecting, and archives tend to acquire by scheduled transfer or by donation. The difference in principle is an important one. - and so is working with record creators and donors who may create their own archives and collections through this kind of active documentation.

    Do we take photos of the things we have so that more people can see them and do research with them, without having to come into the archives themselves? Definitely yes - this is called digitization and it's an important part of what we do, improving access to information in archival records while helping to reduce wear and tear on original materials.

    So far, Oak Bay Archives has digital copies of some of its photographs online - they're available to browse and search here.

    Q: Do the archives make copies of original records in case something happens to the originals?

    Yes, 'insurance copies' are a good idea. We often photograph or scan the whole of a series of 'vital records', those that are essential for legal, business or research purposes. But in most cases we don't have the staff time, funding, equipment, electronic storage space, or urgent necessity to copy everything. Much of the digitization we do is in direct response to individual researchers' enquiries and requests.

    Having surrogates (copies or substitutes), also called preservation copies or access copies, can also be helpful for providing access to popular records while sparing the original material from excessive wear and tear - think of newspaper microfilms, and now, digital versions. Old photographs are sensitive to light and surface damage, but any number of people can access digital images of the same information without causing any disturbance to the physical item.

    Other advantages to using digital copies: users can usually look at photos at greater magnification than the original, several people can look at the same thing at the same time whether or not they are working together or in the same place or time zone, records can be viewed in different arrangements and combinations than the original (e.g. side-by-side comparison of photos from different pages in an album).

    Header image: Effects of water damage to different formats of archival material, from an AABC emergency response salvage training workshop, November 2020. Photo: Anna Sander.

    Do you have questions about archives and archivists' work in general, or Oak Bay Archives in particular? Please get in touch!


    Photo Search:

    Blog posts:


    Phone: 250-598-3290

    - Post by Anna Sander, 15 February 2022.

    To cite: Sander, Anna. (2022, February). 'Archives Q&A'. [Blog post]. District of Oak Bay, Archives. Retrieved from [date].

  • Spotlight on the Archives' reference library - Municipal Hall foyer display January 2022

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    Did you know that Oak Bay Archives has a reference library?

    The library was reclassified to suit its focused range of local history subjects and catalogued online in 2020-21; browse holdings at

    More about the reference library here

    Titles displayed:

    Robert Taylor and Janet Morningstar. St Patrick Street, Oak Bay - Oak Bay Avenue to Brighton Avenue - an architectural and social history

    Ron Baird Success story : the history of Oak Bay

    Joan Hockaday Greenscapes : Olmsted's Pacific Northwest

    Larry McCann Imagining Uplands: John Olmsted's Masterpiece of Residential Design

    Henry Ewert Victoria's streetcar era

    J. F. Bosher Imperial Vancouver Island : who was who, 1850-1950

    Stuart Stark The B.C. Agricultural Association exhibition building at the Willows

    Janet Bingham Samuel Maclure, architect

    Douglas Parker No horsecars in paradise : a history of the street railways and public utilities in Victoria, British Columbia before 1897

    Peter Corley-Smith Victoria Golf Club 1893-1993 : one hundred treasured years of golf

    Betty Gordon Funke Tweed Curtain Pioneers

    Gerry Chaster Trees of Greater Victoria : a heritage

    Brandy J. Patterson A good investment: women and property ownership in a mid-twentieth century Canadian suburb, Oak Bay, British Columbia 1940 - 1960

    Terri Hunter Under the Oaks : Tales of Oak Bay

    Maureen Duffus A Most Unusual Colony: Vancouver Island 1849 - 1860

    Crawford Kilian Go do some great thing : the Black pioneers of British Columbia

    Grant Keddie Songhees Pictorial: A History of the Songhees People as seen by Outsiders, 1790-1912

    Sylvia Van Kirk Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670–1870

    Terry Reksten, Illustrated History Of British Columbia

    ____________ More English Than the English: A Very Social History of Victoria

Page last updated: 19 Jul 2022, 05:30 PM