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More people researching Coquitlam's history last year resulted in a 58% hike to the Archives' online portal

The Barb Wood Collection of pen and ink drawings, commissioned by the City of Coquitlam in the early 2000s, are now in the city's Archives.

Barb Wood trained as an architect and in the fine arts.

In 1980, the Halifax native started a commercial art business in Vancouver and became a partner in a printmaking co-op and gallery on Granville Island.

There, she gained fame for her etchings and her commercial work was in high demand for its distinctive style; collectors, corporate clients and municipalities sought her skills, including the City of Coquitlam.

Now, her pen and ink prints, concept drawings and mock-ups that were commissioned by the municipality in the early 2000s — including for the 100th anniversary of Maillardville and of the city’s fire and rescue department — are with Coquitlam Archives.

In fact, the Barb Wood Collection was one of 23 donations made last year to the division, which also took in

  • records by Dr. Thomas G. Gaunt, who worked at the Crease Clinic and the Provincial Mental Hospital, Essondale, from 1934–1970 (donated by his granddaughter)
  • the Westwood racetrack collection (1964–1969) created by the Sports Car Club of BC and collected by Ken Haywood
  • community photographs by Coquitlam Coun. Craig Hodge, a Centennial Secondary graduate who, before being elected, worked for regional newspapers for decades
  • additions to the fonds from the Hoy/Scott Creek WaterShed Society, Canadian Federation of University Women Coquitlam and the Burquitlam Community Association
  • plans, notebooks and reports from the city’s planning and development department

Archivist Jamie Sanford — who took over the top job last October from Emily Lonie, now the executive director of the Vancouver Heritage Foundation — told the Tri-City News that donations to the Archives means that Coquitlam residents, as well as researchers around the world, can get a better understanding of how the city changed by studying historical documents and photographs.

Currently, Coquitlam Archives has about one million images and 200 linear metres of textual records at its base on Pinetree Way, in the same building as the City Centre branch of the Coquitlam Public Library.

And, this year, Archives’ staff, including Lea Rae (assistant archivist) and Kristin Simmonds (archives and records officer), plan to get as many holdings online as they can, given the demand for digital content.

According to Sanford’s annual report, which came before the city’s council-in-committee on Jan. 17, Quest, the Archives’ online search portal, saw a 58 per cent uptick over 2020 — likely due to the increased interest in historical projects since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

In 2021, Quest had more than 60,000 page views from some 11,000 viewers from across Canada, as well as the United States, the United Kingdom, India, Brazil and Australia.

“Digital preservation will be a large focus for us this year,” said Sanford, a native of Hertfordshire, England, who has a UBC master’s degree in archival studies and an SFU bachelor’s degree in history, and has worked as an archivist of the cities of Richmond and Vancouver, as well as Library and Archives Canada.

The aim of digitization, Sanford said, is to make Coquitlam’s history more accessible.

A Burnaby resident, Sanford said because the city’s Archives division is relatively new, it has the latest technology to get the collections online safely and quickly.

Coun. Hodge, a past president of the Coquitlam Heritage Society board, paid tribute to Lonie who started the Archives in 2013, with support from Jay Gilbert, Coquitlam’s director of intergovernmental relations and legislative services, and Lauren Hewson, information, privacy and administrative services manager.

“The Archives have grown with requests and the number of items being preserved,” he told the committee, noting the Archives’ online exhibit last year, titled Rising Water: The Great Flood of 1948, was often referenced last November when Sumas Prairie washed out.

Do you have a historical item about Coquitlam in need of preservation? Donate it to the Coquitlam Archives. The office (1171 Pinetree Way) is open for drop-ins on Wednesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment on other weekdays. Call 604-927-3900.