Greg Evans with the Esquimalt Municipal Archives reaches for the collection of fire insurance maps. Evans says requests for information are at an all-time high, and come from all over the world. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Esquimalt Archives remain relevant in the age of technology

Municipal Archivist Greg Evans says he’s received more requests than ever for a trip down memory lane

In the age of the Internet, when virtually anything can be found online, the Esquimalt Municipal Archives is alive and well, with more requests than ever for their services.

Greg Evans, the man whose desk sits in a basement office below McDonald’s on Esquimalt Road, jokingly refers to himself as a “history detective.” And in a world where the very concept of a fact is now up for debate, Evans remains staunch.

“We’re the purveyors of historical fact,” he says.

For 36 years, the Esquimalt Archives have pieced together the township’s past, with Evans at the helm for the past seven.

He’s seen a steady climb in requests for everything from old fire insurance maps and property records to military and naval history.

“The Internet has just opened everything up,” he says. Up until 20 years ago, people would connect with the archives by phone or letter, he explains. Now it’s by e-mail or directly through their website, where over half of their 6,000 photos and other documents are readily available at the click of a button.

“I think because of the Internet we’ve become even more relevant because people can access us [so much easier],” Evans says.

“We believe this is the public’s history and they should be able to see it.”

The majority of the collection that comprises the archives comes from donations, with some photos and records kept from municipal employees over the years. And, while people look to Evans and his volunteers to piece together the past, it’s not uncommon for them to fill in the missing gaps or provide corrections when they spot a family name or a face in an old photo.

These days, it’s information about their ancestors that most people come looking for.

“They say genealogy is the fastest growing hobby in the world,” Evans says. “And I think the genealogical side of our job is the most rewarding.”

In 1906, the Canadian Army formed in Esquimalt, followed by the Navy in 1910, so military and naval history is rich here. Evans is currently working with a man from Darby, England tracing the roots of his grandfather who served as the master-at-arms aboard HMS New Zealand when it arrived in 1919.

As for the first peoples here when the British arrived in the mid-1840’s, little is known.

“We don’t have much on the First Nations in here,” Evans says, but he is at work on a project with local partners that hopes to produce a 3-D build-out of the former Songhees Village.

Not just an archivist, Evans’s skills and knowledge have been used in the planning of local history festivals like Fort Macaulay Day.

For this year’s Canada 150 celebrations, he was able to provide a cultural history on Japanese-Canadian contributions to Esquimalt, which date back to the 1890s.

READ: From the archives: The history of God’s Acre and Fort Macaulay

“A lot Esquimalt families want to make sure that some portion of their family history is safe here behind locked doors for people to enjoy and share later. We don’t know who will walk through the door next and what they will have.”

kristyn.anthony@vicnews.com

Just Posted

UVic president offers condolences after two students killed in bus crash

‘We also grieve with those closest to these members of our campus community,’ Cassels says

Colwood square dancing open house to welcome in new dancers

“It’s therapy,” said long-time square dancer Linda Townsend

Christian bookstore’s Victoria location marks 80 years in business

The store opened on corner of Douglas Street, View Street in 1939

Green candidate expects a tight race in Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke

David Merner says Green Party would act as “strong moral conscience” in a minority Parliament

Greater Victoria high school students head to Honduran jungles, reefs for science

Students from St. Andrew’s High School spent the summer surveying the tropics

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Coming Home: B.C. fire chief and disaster dog return from hurricane-ravaged Bahamas

The pair spent roughly one week on Great Abaco Island assisting in relief efforts

Newcomer Ferland lines up with sniper Pettersson as Vancouver Canucks camp opens

Ferland provides more depth and a scoring threat up front, Pettersson says

Intelligence official charged seemed to be ‘exemplar of discretion’: UBC professor

Professor Paul Evans says he served on Cameron Ortis’s doctoral dissertation committee

B.C. police watchdog to investigate man’s head injury during RCMP arrest

Suspect fled on a bicycle and fell off when an officer attempted to stop him

Nanaimo company gets licence to test psychedelic drugs for therapy treatment

Salvation Botanicals interested in manufacturing, testing and research and development

‘A real shame’: B.C. MLA says factors behind Tolko mill closing should have been caught

Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson said the industry is in bad shape across the province

VIDEO: Seniors at B.C. assisted living facility shocked by Oct. 1 eviction notice

Building owners terminate lease for McGuire Lake Congregate Living in Salmon Arm

‘How does it even happen?’: Bear locks itself inside vehicle in Port Moody

It was apparent the suspect had gained entry with his ‘bear’ hands

Most Read