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Historical Photographs at RBSC

A guide to historical archival photographs at UBC's Rare Books and Special Collections

What's a fonds?

The word "fonds" is used to describe most archival collections in Canada and also in many European and Latin American countries.  Fonds simply means the documents in any media or format created or received by a person or an organization in the course of their personal or professional activities.  For example, the "Yoko Ono fonds" would refer to the records created and received by Yoko Ono.

Read the Wikipedia article for the term "fonds."



UBC’s Rare Books & Special Collections (RBSC) houses many fonds that contain unique and interesting historical photographs. This guide will serve to introduce you to resources for finding and using historical photos held at RBSC as well as elsewhere within various UBC and external collections.

At RBSC, photographs can be found within the archival collections of individuals, families, and organizations. While some fonds are comprised entirely of photographs, many others contain photos in addition to other materials. RBSC also provides digitized versions of photograph collections. As such, this guide is divided into categories delineating between those photographs that can be viewed online in digitized collections and those that must be viewed in person in our reading room. 

Featured Photos

group of Chinese women

[Unknown]. (1942). [Photograph of a group of women] [P]. doi:

via The Chinese Canadian Stories Collection

two Maori women cooking potatoes over a geyser

[Unknown]. (1939). [Two Maori women cooking potatoes in geysers] [P]. doi:

via The Chung Collection

two women holding croquet mallets

Unknown. (1919). [Photograph depicting two young women with croquet mallets]. doi: 

via The Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection

Wigwam Inn, B.C.

[Unknown]. (1930). Wigwam Inn, Indian River Park, B.C. [P]. doi:

via The Langmann Collection

couple in horse drawn buggy in front of Stanley Park Hollow Tree

[Unknown]. (1911). [Portait of a couple in a horse drawn buggy and two youths on horses in front of the Stanley Park Hollow Tree] [P]. doi:

via The Langmann Collection

group of Japanese Canadian girls dressed for a festival

[Unknown]. (1942). Group of Japanese Canadian girls participating in Bon-Odori (summer festival) at Greenwood, B.C. [P]. doi:

via The Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection

high rigger cutting a tree down

Cash, J. (1900). High rigger with the top of the tree just beginning to fall down [P]. doi:

via The MacMillan Bloedel Limited fonds

man in profile climbing rocks

[Unknown]. (1918). WITH THE TROOPS IN MESOPOTAMIA [P]. doi:

via The WWI British Press Photograph Collection


About Historical Photographs

For more information on the history of photography as well as its processes and methods of preservation, check out the links below.