An Interior Salish woman and child with baskets sit along the Fraser River. Royal BC Museum recently digitized 16,103 historical photographs depicting Indigenous communities. (Royal BC Museum/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Royal BC Museum uploads 16,103 photographs depicting Indigenous communities to online database

Pictures from across B.C. were taken between the late 1800s and the 1970s

The Royal BC Museum has opened up to the public 16,103 historical photographs depicting Indigenous communities from across B.C. that were taken between the late 1800s and the 1970s.

“At last, the majority of photographs of Indigenous communities from the Royal BC Museum collections are available to the public digitally, and the names of Indigenous individuals who appear in the photos are easily searchable,” said Prof. Jack Lohman, CEO of the Royal BC Museum.

“I am grateful that the museum’s consistent movement towards digitization facilitates this kind of clear and easy access to its collections.”

The digitization process, which started in May 2018 and ended in April 2020, included scanning the verso (or reverse) of each photo, which is mounted on an index card. Each index card, with an image on the front and text on the back, resembles a postcard.

READ MORE: Schoolmarm gives tour of Langley’s Lochiel classroom circa 1924

In many cases, the verso has been annotated with detailed, specific descriptions of locations, people and objects in the photographs—often provided by community and family members who know far more about the images than anyone else.

To view these images, visitors can go to, type “pn” into the Catalogue Number field and click search.

People can also search by Culture (e.g. Haida) or a specific Community.

While the search tool does not specifically harbour any results of Kwantlen or Katzie First Nations, many images filed under “Coast Salish” were taken in the Lower Mainland and Fraser River area.

The Royal BC Museum anticipates the 32,206 image scans will be of value and significance for Indigenous community members, researchers and learners alike, but the museum’s priority has been on the Indigenous communities.

Prior to the digitization process, the images were arranged by linguistic groupings and stored in large wooden index card drawers at the Royal BC Museum.

Now, with the data digitized and moved online, the Royal BC 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.


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