History of the Archives

The Archives was started in 1967 by Ainslie Helmcken, a descendant of one of Victoria's pioneer families.

The establishment of a City Archives required strong support from Mayor Al Toone and his successor, Mayor Hugh Stephen. In the seventeen years that Mr. Helmcken held the position of City Archivist, he worked to create strong ties to the people of Victoria and was very active in the acquisition of archives.

In the beginning, the Archives was located in a small room near the City Council Chambers. As the record holdings grew, the Archives moved to 613 Pandora Avenue. In a building shared with the Parks and Recreation Department and the McPherson Foundation, the Archives consisted of a series of small rooms. No separate reference room existed, so researchers would often share work tables with staff. This could lead to awkward situations such as frequent visitors to the Archives answering the phone before the staff had a chance to get there.

Following Mr. Helmcken's retirement, greater emphasis was placed on describing the archival records that had been previously acquired. A major focus for the Archives at this time was development of the photograph access system.
A marked improvement to the physical layout of the Archives occurred at the end of 1989, when it was moved to #8 Centennial Square. While the Archives lost about 500 square feet in its new location, a proper reference room and more efficient storage was possible. Other storage areas have been added over the years.

Since 1990, the Archives has taken on a larger role in managing the City’s corporate records. It has inventoried the records and established an offsite records storage and retrieval system for City departments. Much work has also been done to assist departments with organizing their records and ensuring that they are disposed of or transferred to Archives, as appropriate, in a timely manner. On the archival side, most of the records have been described and staff look for new ways to make them known and accessible, while continuing to invite transfers of records from City departments and donations of community records from the public.