The Vancouver Maritime Museum Nautical Archives and Library

by John MacFarlane 2018

Lea Edgar

The librarian at the VMM is Lea Edgar. (Photo from the Lea Edgar collection.)

Lea Edgar is a professional librarian and archivist. She has been at the Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) since 2013. She was formerly with the Delta Museum and Archives Society. She holds a Masters degree in Archive Studies, and a Masters degree in Library and Information Studies (both from UBC). In her spare time she is a regular columnist whose work appears in the monthly magazine BC Shipping News.

The library collection has now grown to over 12,000 books, with 538 journal titles, and over 100,000 images. The library collection is catalogued and classified according to the Library of Congress Classification system. There is also an Archive with approximately 50 metres of archival materials. Much of the collection comes by donation, particularly from large private collections.They also hold thousands of ship plans and nautical charts.

Subject areas covered are the maritime arts, culture, industry, science, and history. Its focus is our interactions with the sea and the stories these tell about our past, present and future. Specific strengths of the collection relate to the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest, and the Canadian Arctic.

The Library has a large and most complete collections of the Lloyd’s Register, 1764–2006, published in England and originally used for insurance purposes, includes construction and ownership details of international and local vessels. This resource is essential for studying ship histories.

The library also has a nice run of the Canada List of Shipping (those blue covered books with the summary of the Canada shipping register.) Lea says, "We have: 1898–1994, but missing many years. Some issues are photocopies. They are missing the years: 1899, 1900, 1902, 1903, 1906, 1908, 1911, 1912, 1915, 1926, 1927, 1937, 1938, 1939, (1941–44 war years, not published?), 1946, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1981, 1986, 1992, 1993. So donations are very much welcomed!"

The Register of Seaman Shipped consists of 47 volumes of hand–written ledgers documenting the seamen who shipped out of the Port of Vancouver. A unique record of merchant marine history, this collection dates from 1898 to 1967. It is a unique record of merchant marine history. These large, hand–written volumes include the name of the ship, a list of the crew and their position on the ship, wages earned, and a home address. Popular with genealogists, the Register has also been used by Veteran Affairs Canada in allocating merchant marine wartime service pensions.

The W.B. and M.H. Chung Library is named after its founding Patrons, Drs. Wallace B. and Madeline H. Chung. The library was established in 1993 and the Chungs have remained avid supporters ever since. Dr. Wallace Chung is best known to the maritime heritage community as the premier collector of Canadian Pacific Railway materials and for his exceptional collection of steamship and naval archives, books, ephemera, art and artifacts. A portion of this collection was donated to the VMM in 2004 and was designated as the W.B. and M.H. Chung Maritime History Collection.

The Henry Larsen Rare Book Room, named for the Master of the RCMP St. Roch, was established in 1996 to house the Henry Larsen Collection. The Rare Book Room located in the Library contains many first edition and personal accounts of polar expeditions. Larsen’s love of knowledge the Arctic is reflected in this comprehensive collection of 359 books that include the diaries and publications of 19th and 20th century arctic explorers. Many of the volumes are themselves artifacts of the St. Roch voyages. Almost all are signed, and many contain Larsen’s detailed annotations.

In 2004 the Archives was officially named for Leonard McCann, Curator Emeritus of the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The late Leonard McCann donated his personal library and archives to the Museum in 2006.

The vessel and general subject reference files contain about 50 meters of records. (archival records are usually quoted in the shelf length covered by the records as an indication of size) These reference files contain research material, organized according to vessel name, with a specific emphasis on vessels that worked in the Pacific Northwest. The files include ephemera such as newspaper clippings, journal articles, historical research, and related publications including brochures, passenger schedules, and menus.

The image library holds over 100,000 images (photographs, negatives and slides) depicting ships, ports, commerce, and cultural life of local and Arctic maritime heritage, including numerous photos of Vancouver’s shipping activities, coastal passenger ships, recreational events, and related industries.

The library and archives are located at the Vancouver Maritime Museum (VMM) building on the waterfront, 1905 Ogden Avenue, Vancouver, BC V6J 1A3 604.257.3099. (When you park be sure to buy a parking pass). If you are interested in using the library and archives resources, Lea asks that you call ahead to make an appointment as the research facility is not a drop–in operation. This also gives her a chance to retrieve material of interest to you for research thus saving your time.

She states that "The library and archives is open by appointment on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12:30–4:30 pm. There is no admission fee for using the library. The public can call, send me an email, or fill out a research request online to make an appointment."

Lea notes further that "We get about 600 reference requests per year. which means we get between 30 and 50 requests per month. We received requests from a variety of sources: mainly authors, artists, local historians, genealogists, film companies, activists, students and scholars. We are working on an online database that we hope will go live in the next year or two. This will allow researchers to look through both the artefact and archival collections. Currently, there is a Beta version of the library catalogue on the website. We’re working on getting all of the books there so that it's more accessible. Otherwise, all of the archival finding aids are available on the website now as pdfs."

Ms. Edgar advises that you should bring your lap top to make notes, or if you use paper notes that you should bring a pencil, as pens are almost universally not welcome in an archive operation. (They can cause accidental damage.)

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2018) The Vancouver Maritime Museum Nautical Archives and Library 2018.

New Nauticapedia Book Just Published!

Volume Four in series

The Nauticapedia List of British Columbia's Floating Heritage Volume Four

Book — British Columbia's Floating Heritage
For more information …

Site News: March2nd, 2019

Databases have been updated and are now holding 56,584 vessel histories (with 5,550 images) and 58,184 mariner biographies (with 3,673 images).

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