Vancouver Maritime Museum fonds [multiple media] / Vancouver Maritime Museum Society

Supplied title note
Title based on the name of the creator of the records.
Fonds number
Physical description
5.62 m of textual records and other materials
Administrative history / Biographical sketch

The Vancouver Maritime Museum is the principal maritime museum on the Pacific Coast of Canada, and one of the major maritime museums on the west coast of North America. A member of the Council of American Maritime Museums and the International Congress of Maritime Museums, the Vancouver Maritime Museum interprets the story of Canada's great Pacific port and its links with the Pacific Rim.

The centerpiece of the Vancouver Maritime Museum is the restored Royal Canadian Mounted Police Schooner St. Roch. Built in 1928 to serve as a supply ship for isolated, far-flung Arctic RCMP detachments, St. Roch was also designed to serve, when frozen in for the winter, as a floating detachment, with its constables mounting dog sled patrols from the ship. Between 1940 and 1942, St. Roch navigated the Northwest Passage, arriving in Halifax harbour on October 11, 1942. St. Roch was the second ship to make the passage, and the first to travel the passage from west to east. In 1944, St. Roch returned to Vancouver via the more northerly route of the Northwest Passage.

Retired after returning from the Arctic in 1948, St. Roch was sent to Halifax by way of the Panama Canal in 1950. This voyage made St. Roch the first ship to circumnavigate North America. Returned to Vancouver for preservation as a museum ship in 1954, St. Roch was hauled ashore in 1958. Housed over in 1966 and restored to her 1944 appearance by Parks Canada, the ship was maintained by Park Canada with guided tours until 1995.

As the ship was being placed inside a concrete drydock at Kitsilano Point, the City of Vancouver built its new maritime museum next to the drydock as a British Columbia centennial project. Hailed as a model design for small community museums, the two-story building was completed in late 1958 and opened to the public in June 1959. The Museum was operated by the City of Vancouver until the new Vancouver Museum and H.R. Macmillan Planetarium were built at nearby Vanier Park in 1966. The Maritime Museum was then operated as an integrated unit with the planetarium and museum under the auspices of the Vancouver Museums and Planetarium Association (VMPA) until December 1987.

In 1988, the Vancouver Maritime Museum became an independent entity, operated by the Vancouver Maritime Museum Society, a non-profit, charitable association, under provision of a lease/grant from the City of Vancouver. During this time professional staff was added, the public programs were created, and a series of changing exhibitions were developed.

In 1991, James P. Delgado, then the head of the US government’s maritime preservation program, was selected as executive director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum. During Delgado’s first several years, the Museum embarked on a new direction to emphasize programs and exhibitions for families with children. At the same time, the Museum also made several physical changes. In 1993, a major new research center, the W.B. and M.H. Chung Library, was built inside the Museum. The galleries were remodeled, and a centrally located model workshop was installed in the public galleries. In 1994, a new "Children's Maritime Discovery Center" opened, occupying a quarter of the public spaces of the Museum. The 1990s also introduced a retail outlet, the Maritime Store.

In June 1995, Parks Canada terminated their operation of St. Roch as a result of federal budget cuts and with interim support from the City of Vancouver, the Museum faced the need to not only reintegrate the ship into its operations, but to also find a way to fund the ship's preservation, maintenance, interpretation and operation. The St. Roch Preservation Campaign, with an international focus as part of a reenactment of the ship's Arctic and North American voyages, under the auspices of the St. Roch Voyage of Rediscovery, was created to raise funds for the ship’s preservation.

The Museum's efforts in 1999-2000 focused on a major, post-fire remodeling of the public galleries, new exhibits, and small improvements to the Heritage Harbour and a stronger emphasis on programs and events. A floating wooden boat center was added to the harbour at the end of 1999. The harbour hosted the final North American port of call of the replica of Captain James Cook's barque Endeavour, and at year's end, acquired the large research submersible Ben Franklin. In early 2000, plans to reassemble the submersible, placed along the Museum's western facade, and integrate it into a new educational program were underway. The major initiative of the year, however, was the joint undertaking with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to reenact the historic voyages of St. Roch as the major initiative of the St. Roch Preservation Campaign. By the end of 2000, and the culmination of the 24,000 nautical mile voyage through the Arctic and around North America, the Museum had reached a worldwide audience. In mid-2001, the voyage, which faced incredible financial hurdles, had not brought significant additions to the preservation fund, but it had covered its own costs and brought the Museum a national profile.

In 2003, the restoration of the submersible Ben Franklin concluded and the craft was rededicated as a land-based exhibition on a new mission – one of education. The Museum hosted the first-ever reunion of the sub’s builders and crew and also dedicated a monument to the sub, its 1969 mission, and its crew. Significant additions to the collections, a record number of Canadian cultural property acquisitions of national treasures, a substantial internet presence with a new website, and growth of children’s programming marked the early 2000s while the Museum embarked on a push to relocate and expand.

In 2006, Dr. James Delgado resigned as the Museum’s executive director was replaced by a series of interim Acting executive directors. From 2007 to 2009 Wesley Wenhardt served as executive director and from April 2010 to 2013 Simon Robinson acted as executive director. From 2014-2017 Ken Burton was appointed executive director. In 2017 Dr. Joost C.A. Schokkenbroek was appointed as executive director.

Executive Directors

Years Name
1959 F.H. Johnson (possibly Director of museum board?)
1960-1962 Thomas A. Wylie
1974-? Terence (Terry) Elworthy
1977-1979? Clifford W. Tosdevin? (CEO Vancouver Museum Complex)
1980-1981 Michael Duncan
----1988---- Maritime Museum became independent entity
1981-1991 Robin Inglis
1991-2006 James Delgado
2007-2009 Wesley Wenhardt
2010-2013 Simon Robinson
2013-2014 Kennith Chan (Acting Director)
2014-2017 Ken Burton
2017-2021 Joost C.A. Schokkenbroek, PhD
2021- Duncan McLeod (Acting Senior Manager)
Scope & content

The fonds consists of records related to the operational and administrative history of the Vancouver Maritime Museum and its stewardship by the Vancouver Maritime Museum Society. Records include correspondence; meeting minutes; policies and procedures; contracts; financial reports, grant and funding applications; educational planning and school programming materials; advertising and publicity brochures; membership accounts; exhibit planning, photographs, curatorial inventories for artifacts, library books and archival records; loan contracts, and donor correspondence.

The records have been arranged into the following function/department-based sous-fonds:

  1. Executive Director’s records
  2. Board of Trustee's records
  3. Operational records
  4. Curatorial (collections) records
  5. Education and Public Programming records
  6. Membership records
  7. Public (community) Relations and Marketing records
  8. Fundraising and development records
  9. Financial and Accounting records
  10. Heritage Harbour records
Records arranged by the Archivist.
English, Spanish
Related materials
See City of Vancouver Archives for an inventory of VMM records held in their custody and processed as the "Vancouver Maritime Museum Collection." Access to this material is open to VMM staff through the City Archives reference process.
Access: Access is partially restricted. See the Archivist for more information.