As the City of Coquitlam Archives celebrates its 10-year anniversary, it’s the perfect opportunity to reflect on the rapid growth of the archival collections. The City Archives is home to a diverse collection of records.
The City Archives can be divided into two major groups. City records that are produced by the local civic government (the City of Coquitlam) that have long-term legal, administrative and historical value. These records include Council Minutes, Committee Minutes, City Bylaws, Plans, Maps and aerial photographs.
The other group are private sector or community records, which document the social, political, economic, and cultural and community life of Coquitlam from non-government sources. Donors include individuals, families, schools, community groups, artists and non-profits.
Did you know that other Archives in British Columbia and Canada also hold records that relate to Coquitlam and Coquitlamites? In this web exhibit, we will explore this cache of records and search for Coquitlam in other Archives.
City of Vancouver Archives
By all accounts, Major James Skitt Matthews was quite the character. He was hired as the City of Vancouver’s first Archivist in 1933, a position he held until his death in 1971. Matthews was famously involved in a controversy with the Vancouver Library Board over ownership of the materials he had amassed. At one point, by way of protest, he packed up the collection and relocated it to his home.
During his long tenure, Matthews built up a vast collection of records that pertained to Vancouver. He conducted and transcribed hundreds of interviews with Vancouver’s earliest pioneers. The interviews document a breadth and scope of local historical subject matter. Matthews cast his net wide, often collecting materials that related to other municipalities in the Lower Mainland, partly due to the fact no other municipal archives were established at that time. Therefore, there is no surprise the City of Vancouver Archives has records that document aspects of Coquitlam’s history.
The Major Matthews Collection is comprised of a whopping 114 meters of textual records and approx. 20,300 photographs. A small part of this collection are 100 photographs that capture the construction of the Coquitlam Dam from 1910-1912. The construction of Coquitlam Dam was a major infrastructure project garnering much attention and provided many jobs within the region.
The City of Vancouver Archives has another wonderful collection of photographs that have a strong Coquitlam Connection. The Hamber family fonds documents, Minnekhada Ranch, a Coquitlam property with a fascinating history. The Hambers were a prominent Vancouver family in the early 20th Century.
In 1912, Eric Hamber married Aldyen Hendry and began work at the BC Mills Timber and Trading Company, a company owned by Aldyen's father, John Hendry (a former Mayor of New Westminster). Hamber swiftly rose through the ranks and became the company's president. He was appointed British Columbia's fifteenth Lieutenant Governor on May 1, 1936 and held the office for five years.
In 1941, he accepted the position of Chancellor of the University of British Columbia, a position he held for seven years. In 1946, he was made a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St George. The Hamber Provincial Park on the BC side of the Canadian Rockies also bears his name
The Hambers purchased the Minnekhada property in Coquitlam in 1932, and in 1934 they built the Tudor Revival style Minnekhada Lodge as a country retreat and hunting lodge. The Hambers owned the land until 1958 which is now managed by Metro Vancouver Parks.
The City of Vancouver Archives has digitized 300 photographs that document the Hambers' residency at the Lodge. The photographs illustrate the size of the property, its stock of farm animals and the social and recreational activities that took place at Minnekhada during this era. Also present are some rare aerial photographs of the Lodge.
Library and Archives Canada serves as Canada’s national Archives. Library and Archives Canada, collects and preserves materials that help document and interpret the country’s history. Among its vast collection are the archives of the Federal Government documenting many aspects of Canadians' lives.
One of the most fascinating parts of the Library and Archives Canada collection are the digitized military service records. Here we find the records of Alexander Windram, a Coquitlam Soldier. Alexander Windram was born on February 21 in 1881 in Eyemouth, Scotland. He immigrated to Canada in 1910 with his wife and young son and found employment as a steamfitter at Fraser Mills. He enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on February 22, 1916 and was moved into the field with 7th Battalion on January 22, 1917. Alexander Windram was tragically killed at the Battle of Vimy Ridge on April 9.
Attestation for Alexander Windram (Source CEF Personnel Files, Library and Archives Canada)
The City of Coquitlam Archives has a series of postcards that Windram wrote to his wife while he was completing basic army training in the BC interior. The Archives also has a collection of photographs of the Windram family who remained in Coquitlam after Alexander’s death.
The service records from Library and Archives Canada and the family records from the City of Coquitlam Archives offer insight into different aspects of Windram’s life and when used in tandem, a richer and more nuanced rendering of Windram’s story emerges. You can read more about Windram in the City Archives inaugural online exhibit originally published in 2017.
Riverview (səmiq̓ʷəʔelə) Hospital was a mental health facility in Coquitlam that operated as the Province’s specialized psychiatric hospital from 1913 until it closed in 2012. The City of Coquitlam Archives has an extensive collection of archival records that documents its history. The Riverview (səmiq̓ʷəʔelə) Hospital Historical Society collection includes 5,000 photographs, maps, textual and audio and visual records. In addition, the City of Coquitlam Archives holds the School of Psychiatric Nursing and Colony Farm records.
One of the most frequently asked questions at the City of Coquitlam Archives relates to Riverview’s patient records, with researchers interested in finding information on family members or persons of interest. As the site was operated by the BC Provincial Government, the vast collection of records reside with the BC Archives. The BC Archives, located in Victoria, has a vast collection. It is the Archives of the Government of British Columbia and provides access to records of enduring value to the province. When Riverview (səmiq̓ʷəʔelə) was closed, its operational and administrative records were transferred to Victoria and this is where they can be accessed. Due to privacy legislation, the records have not been digitized.
Here we have the example of a Coquitlam institution that was operated by the provincial government with the patient records held by the BC Archives. Different facets of Riverview's (səmiq̓ʷəʔelə) history are captured in the two Archives.
The City of Coquitlam Archives should always be the first port of call for anyone interested in the documentary history of Coquitlam. However, as demonstrated in this web exhibit sometimes information on Coquitlam and Coquitlamites can be found in other repositories, depending on the context and the creator of the records.