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

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

Esquimalt

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This rendering shows plans for the new “flyover”overpass connecting northbound traffic on Highway 17 heading west on Keating Cross Road. Plans currently seeking public input propose two options for the median along Keating Cross Road. Option 1 will prevent left turns onto Tamany Drive and Buena Vista Road. Option 2 (seen here)will allow for left turns onto Tamany Drive and Bujena Vista Road. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Public asked for comment on proposed overpass for Pat Bay in Central Saanich

New flyover overpass proposed for Highway 17 and Keating Cross Road

Various Victoria locations were hit with a slew of anti-bylaw graffiti Wednesday. This image has been altered to cover up profane language. (Submitted photo)
UPDATED: Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti an ‘unacceptable’ form of communication says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

A pedestrian pushing two children in a stroller was struck by a driver while crossing a Highway 1 off-ramp at Burnside Road West on Feb. 24. (Google Streetview)
UPDATED: Pedestrian with two children in stroller struck in Saanich crosswalk after driver failed to yield

No serious injuries reported, driver issued $167 ticket under Motor Vehicle Act, police say

David Wighton is a Goldstream Gazette 2021 Local Hero as the winner of the Coaches Award. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Life-changing lessons shared after 55-year coaching career

David Wighton is the 2021 recipient of the Local Hero Coaches Award

B.C. health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix wore pink shirts to showcase this year’s motto: “Lift each other up.” (Twitter/PinkShirtDay)
PHOTOS: B.C. celebs take a stand against bullying on Pink Shirt Day

‘We need to let young people know they are not alone and they can reach out to others for help’

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 23

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media File Photo)
POLL: Are you struggling with Greater Victoria’s cost of housing?

While Victoria remains one of the most expensive cities in the country… Continue reading

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

When his owner had knee surgery, Kevin, 2, was able to continue to go for walks thanks to volunteers from Elder Dog Canada. (Contributed photo)
B.C. woman has nothing but praise for Elder Dog Canada

National organization has a fleet of volunteer walkers ready, but needs more clients to serve

Justin Morissette is still recovering from the injuries sustained in the altercation. He is not yet able to walk without assistance. (Justin Morissette, Twitter)
B.C. man suing city and police over violent altercation with anti-LGBTQ preacher

Justin Morissette argues police knew the threat the preacher posed, and failed to keep the peace

Mowi Canada West salmon farm in B.C. waters. Conservative MPs have backed an industry call for further discussions on the timeline for closing Discovery Island farms. (Photo supplied by Mowi Canada)
Conservative MPs back B.C. salmon farmers’ call for transparent discussions

Farm owners requested consultations, more time to leave Discovery Islands

Jack Barnes, who was Cowichan Valley Capitals property from May 2020 until last week, scores a goal for the Penticton Vees during the 2019-20 BCHL season. (Brennan Phillips/Black Press)
COVID-crunched BCHL facing trade deadline dilemma with its 20-year-olds

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

A Nanaimo RCMP vehicle in the Woodgrove Centre parking lot. (News Bulletin file photo)
Woman groped by stranger in mall parking lot in Nanaimo

Incident happened near bus loop Saturday, Feb. 20, at about 4:45 p.m.

Most Read