In the heart of Lynn Valley, there are three generations of Lynn Valley Elementary. Many are familiar with the bustling modern school, some may know the red wooden schoolhouse now home to Lynn Valley Preschool, but nestled between the two is stately second Lynn Valley Elementary. Today, it is home to the Archives portion of MONOVA – complete with cold storage to preserve precious documents. Drop-in hours relaunched last month and there has never been a better time to explore local history.
For the past few years, the Archives have been accessible by appointment. In addition to appointments throughout the week, the public is welcome to stop in on Monday afternoons from 12:30 – 4:30 pm.
“When people hear archives they probably think of dusty tomes in some back room where you have to wear gloves and it might feel intimidating,” said Georgia Twiss, MONOVA archives attendant. “The archives is essentially a collection of all the historical documents or records of a place or institution or a collection from a group of people or community. What we have in our collection is all the documents and records you can think of for the history of North Vancouver – both the city and district.”
“And it is far less intimidating than white gloves,” says Twiss.
Records available at the Institute Road facility include historic municipal records, diaries, photographs and negatives, plus donations from the Burrard Dry Docks, the North Shore Mountaineering Club, organizations, businesses and individuals. But that isn’t quite the case. There are carefully preserved books and papers but access is a lot easier than one might imagine.
“A lot of the records are digital. We still have the old-style catalogues here with the little drawers you can pull out and the Dewey Decimal System but also today we have an online catalogue so you can come in you can computers do the research from home and then come in and see the materials physically,” she said.
As the archives march through time, along with the community, it is also evolving. It is developing methods to collect digital records like webpages, Instagram posts and tweets.
“ A lot of our materials have been digitized like old photos. We still have the negatives but you can view the photos digitally,” said Twiss.
Get a historical point of view
Much like a library, the archives and its staff support individuals or groups looking for information.
“There is a broad range of services people can access the archives. We aren’t just here for academic researchers,” she said. “Perhaps someone’s trying to file taxes for their home so they want to know when their house was built or when an extension was added to it we have that information because we have the building permit records. Perhaps they want to renovate a heritage home and they want to access the records in order to get the approval of the city or the district. There is a lot to do with properties.
“There is a lot to do with genealogy. We have the ability to answer questions like when did my grandfather move here what was the house they lived in? what did the house look like? Sometimes people just have general questions about history.”
The experience is also similar to a library with staff present to answer questions. There is a reading room with computers, tables and chairs.
“We can walk through how to search the databases,” said Twiss. “There are historical reference books. Comfy chairs to settle in.”
The archives is hopeful more people will access its resources with the return of drop-in hours.
“Appointments are valuable because we are able to have materials ready for the people we are assisting. [With] drop-in Mondays we are hoping to break down barriers,” said Twiss.“You don’t have to send us an email. You don’t have to give us a call. You can just pop into the archives. Sometimes people are just walking by and decide to come in and ask that question that’s been on their mind. Sometimes it’s just a new idea or it sometimes is something they’ve been thinking about for years.”
Twiss also pointed out archival records are present in our community more often than perhaps we think.
“Anyone who walks by Lynn Valley [Village] sees on the outside the words that frame a photograph of the General Store, that’s one of our photographs,” she said. “That is an archival record presented in a different way. If you’re on Lonsdale and walking by the Shipyards you’re walking past our photos everywhere. You are interacting with our records, you just might not know it.
Visit for yourself
The MONOVA archives are at 3203 Institute Road.
Monday: Drop-in hours from 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm.
Tuesday – Friday: By appointment only from 12:30 pm – 4:30 pm