Library and Archives


The library at the Maritime holds a large and various amount of research materials related to all aspects of maritime studies.

Along with 8,000 books, the library also houses periodicals, photographs, vertical files, and special collections. Materials are limited to library use only and cannot be signed out. The library covers the following topics:

  • Maritime history of British Columbia
  • Exploration of British Columbia, the Arctic, and the Pacific Rim regionLib_NavyLists
  • Waters, salt and inland, of British Columbia and the Northwest Coast
  • Waters of the Pacific Ocean
  • History of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Coast Guard and other Canadian government fleets
  • History of the Royal Navy in the Pacific Rim
  • Shipping and other marine industries on the Northwest Coast
  • Marine technology and nautical sciences, including navigation and seafaring
  • Mythology and lore of the sea of indigenous peoples and seafarers of other lands
  • National and international law of the sea and related legislation

Some of the collection highlights include a large amount of pilotage and sailing directions books, British and Canadian Navy Lists, and the first editions of the Cook and Vancouver volumes published in 1785 and 1798.


Our archives hold a wide variety of historical documents including naval records dating back to the late 1700s; business records from local companies including, but not limited to, Yarrows Shipbuilders Ltd., Island Tug and Barge, and BC Ferries; records from sealing and whaling vessels; lighthouse logs; Coast Guard records; records for our fleet; personal diaries and letters; maps and charts; ships’ plans; photo albums; scrapbooks; and newspapers.

IMG_6574Use the MemoryBC site to identify archival holdings that may be of interest to you, whether for serious research or simply to take a glimpse into our province’s fascinating and exciting past. The MemoryBC.ca portal provides a searchable database of the materials available at archival repositories (including the Maritime Museum) throughout the province of British Columbia. Archival repositories preserve records, papers, photographs, maps and charts, and lots of other types of historical information created by people and organizations over time. All of these materials are available to the public to access, research, and enjoy.
You can search the MemoryBC database to see a limited list of archival materials held at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. If you find materials you would like to access, please contact our Archivist (archives@mmbc.bc.ca) to arrange an appointment. Also, please note that the majority of our archives are not listed on the MemoryBC site. We are in the process of a major cataloguing project of this part of the collection, with an end goal of making more of the catalogue available online to increase accessibility to this unique and exciting collection.

The Maritime Museum of BC’s library and archives collections have been funded through project grants from the federal Museum Assistance Program in 2018 and 2019. This funding has allowed us to preserve the collections according to best practice, making sure they will be available for future generations to learn from. It has also allowed made it easier for us to offer essential research services to the public.