An image from the Royal BC Museum’s digitized collection of historical photographs shows an Interior Salish woman and child weaving baskets. The image is one of thousands posted in an online database. (Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum)

B.C. museum releases more than 16,000 historical photos of Indigenous life

Digitized images preserved and shared with Indigenous communities

Removed from the darkness of large wooden index card drawers, more than 16,000 moments from Indigenous history have been released to the public.

Following a lengthy effort in preservation, the Royal BC Museum has shared the fruits of its digitization labour, posting online historical photographs of B.C.’s Indigenous communities between the late 1800s and 1970s.

With guidance from the museum’s Indigenous Advisory and Advocacy Committee, the process of cataloging and digitizing the photographs started in May 2018 and wrapped up nearly two years later.

With images and index cards scanned, the artifacts resemble postcards, with a picture on the front and text on the back – in some cases containing detailed descriptions of the people, places and objects in the picture – often provided by the family or community members.

An Interior Salish man stares into the camera in one of the digitized images shared by the Royal BC Museum. The public artifacts are intended to help Indigenous community members, researchers and learners. (Courtesy of the Royal BC Museum)

Frozen mostly in black and white, the images are snapshots of a history too often untold and inaccessible – authentic moments of Indigenous communities, albeit told primarily through the lens of colonial photographers.

The collection is vast, including snapshots of totem poles, architecture, boats and of course, people. A Coast Salish woman weaving in 1915; two Tlingit men launching a canoe onto the Taku River in 1931; A Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation man holding shell rattles while performing at a potlatch in Alert Bay in 1900

READ ALSO: Repatriation efforts work to heal and connect through history: Royal BC Museum

In a statement, Tourism Minister Lisa Beare, says the project is part of a larger commitment to reconciliation.

“Indigenous peoples have a right to images of their communities and their families and through this database can access them no matter where they are in the province,” a statement sent by her ministry reads.

Images can be searched by culture, community or name and the museum says it hopes the artifacts will be valuable for Indigenous community members, researchers and learners. High-resolution copies can be distributed to communities directly, while originals are preserved at the museum in perpetuity.

“Royal BC Museum staff have facilitated private, in-person access by Indigenous community members and researchers to the images, and recognizing the value (and impermanence) of knowledge, for more than 50 years visitors and staff have annotated the back of the index cards with information they feel is relevant,” the museum says.

“Now, with the data digitized and moved online, [the museum] anticipates people will be able to go online from anywhere in the province, type in information like a family member’s name, and download scanned images and other vital information.”

But those searching the system may find some entries without an image. While the committee supported the idea of providing public access to the pictures, it also recommended some remain restricted for legal or cultural reasons.

The committee also recommended a process in which images could be swiftly removed from the online database if they are identified as depicting a sacred event or site or for other reasons of cultural sensitivity.

The database includes a take-down policy and link to an email for the privacy manager to request removal.

To have a look at the digitized images, visit royalbcmuseum.bc.ca, type “pn” into the catalogue number field and press search.

READ ALSO: Museum makes historic Indian Reserve Commission document accessible to public

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
nina.grossman@blackpress.ca


@NinaGrossman
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

historyIndigenous peoplesRoyal BC Museum

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon product Quinn Jones, better known as Jaq Havoq, released his sophomore album Mood Swings ahead of fall 2020. (Contributed)
Vernon product drops sophomore album

Jaq Havoq examines love, heartache and depression in Mood Swings

Vernon once again boasts the lowest gas prices in B.C. Oct. 20, 2020. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Vernon boasts lowest gas prices in B.C.

Gas going up, and down, throughout the North Okanagan

The body of Natsumi Kogawa, 30, was found in the Gabriola Mansion on Davie Street, Vancouver, in September 2016. Vernon man William Schneider, who was found guilty of second-degree murder, now awaits the decision of his appeal hearing Monday, Oct. 19, 2020. (Vancouver Police Department photo)
No decision yet for Vernon man appealing murder sentence

William Victor Schneider was convicted in relation to Natsumi Kogawa’s death in 2016

An early morning fire destroyed the Willems Fire Products mill Friday, Oct. 16. (Contributed)
Fire claims longtime Lumby mill

Go Fund Me established to help family-owned business rebuild

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP received footage of a suspect vehicle littering hate flyers around 21st Avenue in Vernon Oct. 17, 2020. (RCMP)
WATCH: Footage offers lead in hate-fuelled flyer probe: Vernon Mounties

Vernon police received footage of an older model green truck distributing flyers in the early morning hours Saturday

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A 20-year-old man was pronounced dead following a three vehicle collision on Highway 1 west of Revelstoke Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (File photo)
One dead after Highway 1 crash near Revelstoke

20-year-old man pronounced dead at the scene of a three vehicle collision west of Revelstoke

Steven Stuart Gardner has been charged with possession of a firearm contrary to an order and possession of a firearm without a licence. He has also been charged, under the Motor Vehicle Act, with driving while prohibited. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Car connected to shooting, dumped in Chase leads to unrelated arrest

Investigation of Kamloops shooting leads police to a rural Chase property

Volunteer registered nurse Stephanie Hamilton recieves a swab from a driver as she works at a Covid-19 testing site in the parking lot at Everett Memorial Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
13 more COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

There are 624 cases in the region since the start of the pandemic

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 confirmed at Kelowna Francophone school

École de L’Anse-au-sable is not affiliated with local SD23

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of decades-old plane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of Sts’ailes Community School students helped discover the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

To guarantee water supply in 1933, Summerland’s Dominion Research Station (now Summerland Research and Development Centre) installed its own Okanagan Lake pumping station. Today, all communities on Okanagan Lake use lake water to supplement their water systems, except the District of Summerland. (Photo courtesy Summerland Museum)
Dominion Research Station once drew water from Okanagan Lake

In 1930s, facility in Summerland used lake water to have a guaranteed supply

Most Read