In late 2017, we received an unusually large and, yes, somewhat overwhelming acquisition: Postmedia Network Canada Corporation, publisher of the Vancouver Sun and The Province, donated approximately 5.6 million (!) Vancouver Sun and The Province photographic negatives, 100,000 contact sheets and prints, and their associated index cards. We are thrilled to announce that a first batch of nearly 25,000 Vancouver Sun photo shoots (representing approximately 537,000 images) is now available for viewing in the Archives’ Reading Room!
Taken for the two largest local dailies in Vancouver, the images represent all aspects of life in the City and the Lower Mainland: politics, people, entertainment, sports, neighbourhoods, architecture, and more. The total donation includes images dating from the 1940s to 2001, but the batch now available covers 1966 to 1977, plus 1981 and 1982.
When the Sun photographers completed a shoot, the negatives from the shoot were usually filed in a single envelope and labelled with basic metadata: the date of the shoot, the photographer’s surname, and a brief caption. Each photo shoot was assigned a unique job number, called a “Twincheck.” We estimate there are over 250,000 jobs represented in the donation.
Archives staff transcribed the envelope metadata and counted the number of negatives in each envelope to create a file-level description for each job. The caption provides the title for each file description. Here is an example of one of these descriptions now in our online database:
How to search the photos, and how to search anything but the photos: Boolean refresher time!
The newly available file descriptions have been added to our pre-existing Pacific Press fonds, Series 1 (Vancouver Sun photographs), and join a small number of previously acquired photographs described to the item level and digitized. With nearly 25,000 file descriptions, searching the series is best done via the advanced search function in our AtoM database. To restrict search results to the Vancouver Sun negatives, use the Boolean “and” operator to add “AM1616-S1” (the Vancouver Sun negatives series’ reference code) to your search terms.
Given the large number of file descriptions from the series, you may also find that Vancouver Sun descriptions are clogging up your keyword search results when you’re looking for something else, and wish to exclude them from your search. In this case, use the Boolean “not” operator to remove “AM1616-S1” from your results.
How to see the photos
The photographs are not digitized – they are available in person in the Archives’ Reading Room. Because the negatives are in frozen storage, requests to view them require 48 hours’ notice. Once they have thawed and acclimatized, they can be viewed on a light table with a loupe.
Given the size of the donation and the breadth of subject matter, these photographs have enormous research value locally, nationally and internationally. We are hard at work preparing more descriptions and will make more photographs from the Vancouver Sun and The Province available as batches are ready. We look forward to seeing you in the Reading Room!