Since 1993 the Friends have worked to promote and improve public awareness of the Vancouver City Archives, its services and projects. We promote the use of the resources and services of the Archives by the general public and professionals, and support the development of archival services and facilities of the City of Vancouver.

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We encourage the  appreciation of the history of this amazing city and help individuals, businesses, clubs, and other groups to value their important documents and photographic images, including their donation and preservation by the City of Vancouver Archives. From family photo albums to corporate records, these resources become important to future generations of researchers, writers, genealogists and news reporters.


A Friends Fundraiser:
“No Smoke Without Fire: Reimagining Women in Colonial Barkerville”

Join the Friends of Vancouver City Archives on Tuesday, January 31 @7pm, for Dr. Laura Ishiguro’s talk “No Smoke Without Fire: Reimagining Women in Colonial Barkerville”

On 16 September 1868, the gold-rush town of Barkerville, British Columbia burned to the ground. Weaving together archival records, rumours, and silences, this talk offers a new history of the fire, and the colonial society that sparked it.

On one level, it illuminates the place of diverse women and violence at the heart of mid-nineteenth-century British Columbia. On another level, the talk also reimagines the possibilities of history-telling itself. What can we do with an archive full of silences, fragments, and uncertainty? What stories might we be able to tell, and what difference can they make to how we understand this place and its past?

Laura Ishiguro is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and affiliated faculty with the Asian Canadian & Asian Migration Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. An historian of colonialism in northwestern North America, she is the author of Nothing to Write Home About: British Family Correspondence and the Settler Colonial Everyday in British Columbia (UBC Press, 2019).

Details and Tickets:

Date: Tuesday, January 31, 2023
Time: 7:00 pm (PST)
Location: Virtual via Zoom

Tickets: $20.00 via Eventbrite

Home in an Evolving City

In February the Friends hosted Home in an Evolving City via Zoom

Vancouver has always been a city of real estate speculation and high rate of home ownership. The history of housing in Vancouver has focused on architect-designed houses of the upper class. This talk presents a different view of housing in the city’s settler history that focuses on the resilience, creativity, and agency of those attempting to create homes for themselves amidst changing municipal landscapes.

Our Speakers:

John Atkin is a civic historian, and heritage consultant. John offers interesting and offbeat insight to the city’s architecture, history and neighbourhoods through his walking tours, books, and blog. As a heritage consultant, John regularly consults on heritage buildings, writing Statements of Significance, Conservation Plans and Heritage Assessments. John is past chair of the City of Vancouver’s Civic Asset Naming Committee, former chair of the Dr Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden and currently sits on the board of the Friends of the Vancouver Archives, and is a vice president the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of BC.

Jennifer Chutter is a PhD Candidate in Interdisciplinary Studies at SFU. Her current research examines how SPOTA challenged the city narratives of what it means to create a home in the city during the the 1960s and 1970s. Her previous work was on the Vancouver Special and its significance in meeting the city’s housing needs.

Judy Graves worked with the homeless from 1974 at the Pine Free Clinic, until she retired from her position as the City of Vancouver’s Advocate for the Homeless in 2013. She spent years walking the streets and alleys overnight, listening to the homeless, learning from them, housing them. Her work also involved years exploring the DTES SROs, rooming houses, rooms in basements, cars on the side of the road, small boats in the harbour, tent cities and abandoned houses and many other places the very poor make their home. Although she did not finish high school, she has honorary degrees from four universities, and the Freedom of the City Award. 

Lani Russwurm is a Vancouver historian. He is the author of Vancouver Was Awesome (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2013) and the blog Past Tense Vancouver, and a contributing blogger and researcher for Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours.

Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom turned 91 years old on December 3, 2021.

We celebrated with author/historian Aaron Chapman with this online fundraising event for the Friends of the City of Vancouver Archives

Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom turned 91 years old on December 3rd. To celebrate, the Friends of the Vancouver Archives joined Live at The Commodore Ballroom author/historian Aaron Chapman for a special virtual presentation of the history of the Commodore. 

The Commodore has seen generations of Vancouverites pass through its doors since it opened in 1930. In its time it has seen just about everything, with its legendary floor seeing everything from waltzing to slam-dancing. In this Zoom presentation, Chapman will take you through a visual tour of the history of the Commodore, present many previously unpublished photographs, and talk about the trends in history that have made the Commodore come to be. He’ll talk about how, while so many other nightclubs have come and gone, The Commodore has survived and come to be perhaps the one of most valued and beloved venues not only in Vancouver but across the continent—named by Billboard Magazine one of the top ten most influential venues in North America. Chapman will also speak to the comprehensive “800 Granville” development project recently presented by developers Bonnis Properties that perhaps suggests the future of where the Commodore and that part of Granville Street is headed.

Just What Do the Friends Do?

Glad You Asked… With donations and grants we have accomplished a lot over the years. Here are a few of the things we’ve funded and presented


  • Web publisher software for Archives web site (enables researchers to search database on the Web)
  • Dye-sublimation printer (allows photo prints from scanned images)
  • Scanning photographic images into database
  • Combined index for 7 volumes of J.S. Matthews’ Early Vancouver
  • Computer for research room
  • Lease of photocopier for public use
  • Reproduction of 1888 Vancouver directory
  • Bookcase
  • Contribution to memorial to J.S. Matthews – Mt. Pleasant
  • Establishment of Elizabeth O’Kiely book tribute
  • Photographic cold storage facility (for preservation of deteriorating photographic negatives)
  • Reproduction of damaged Vancouver directories
  • Re-describing Major Matthews photograph collection
  • City directories project
  • Scanning and description grant for Walker E. Frost fonds, Ship’s series 2 photographs


  • Last Gang in Town Aaron Chapman
  • Vaudeville and Vancouver’s Great White Way Tom Carter and John Atkin
  • Vancouver Before the Railways Dr. Robert A.J. McDonald
  • Behind the Scenes – History of Theatre in Vancouver Norman Young
  • Captain Vancouver’s Voyage Dr. Robin Fisher
  • Vancouver Book Project Chuck Davis
  • Empress Ships of the C.P.R. Leonard McCann
  • W.J. Moore Panorama Exhibit Archives Staff 
  • Early Vancouver Postcards Fred Thirkell and Bob Scullion
  • Vancouver’s Forgotten Entrepreneurs Dr. Jean Barman
  • Greenhill Park Disaster Leonard McCann
  • Archives Roadshow – Preservation of Family Treasures Archives Staff
  • History of Vancouver Aquarium Dr.  Murray Newman
  • Heritage Trees of Vancouver Clive Justice
  • Vancouver General Hospital and School of Nursing Marguerite Ford & Peggy Etchell
  • Heraldry in B.C. Robert Watt
  • Lion’s Gate Bridge Don Luxton
  • Pioneer Shipping on Burrard Inlet Robert Turner, Ken MacKenzie & Leonard McCann
  • Sports in Vancouver Jim Kearney
  • Streetcars & Transit in Vancouver Henry Ewert
  • Stanley Park’s Secret  Jean Barman
  • History of Burrard Inlet Doreen Armitage
  • Short Pants to Striped Trousers; The Life and Times of a Judge   Wallace Gilby Craig
    In Skid Road Vancouver


  • Bowen Island Museum and Archives
  •  Duke of Connaught’s Beatty Street Drill Hall and Regimental Museum
  • Marine Building; Architecture and Art Deco Design


  • 2 Fun/Fund-raising Auction Nights
  • Historical Trivia Night and fund-raiser
  • Sunday Tea and Ivan Sayers Historical Fashion Show
  • The Antique Road Show
  • Sunday Lunch and Presentation–Artists of Pre-WW II Vancouver, with Uno Langmann
  • A Victorian Tea and Talk (John Kennlyside) fund-raiser