Parks Canada St. Roch Photograph collection [graphic materials] / Parks Canada

Collection number
Physical description
6 boxes of graphic material (ca. 2000 photographs)
Administrative history / Biographical sketch

The Parks Canada St. Roch Photograph Collection represents an accumulation of photographic records from a variety of different juridical entities and individual records creators. Prime among these are the RCMP crew members of the St. Roch, and the custodians of the vessel after its active existence, primarily Parks Canada and the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The active period of the St. Roch itself extended from 1928 to 1954, and for the majority of that time, the ship was captained by Henry Larsen. The ship is renowned for various exploits most notably its two voyages through the Northwest Passage in the earlier 1940s. The history of the St. Roch itself has been extensively documented in various sources, including James Delgado’s Arctic Workhorse, and Henry Larsen’s own, The Big Ship and consequently it will not be related in full here. The ship was decommissioned while in Halifax in 1954 and was then returned to Vancouver, where it languished in the Vancouver harbour for several years. In 1958 it was placed in dry dock at Kitsilano Point in Vancouver. The location of the St. Roch in dry dock was influential in the decision on the part of the City of Vancouver to open the Vancouver Maritime Museum directly next door to the ship.

The museum was for a brief time controlled directly by the City of Vancouver until 1966, when it came under direction of the Vancouver Museums and Planetarium Association, which governed the Maritime Museum until 1987. In 1988 the Vancouver Maritime Museum Society took control over the activities of the Museum. Even though an A-frame shelter was constructed over the St. Roch in 1966 that physically linked the site with the Maritime Museum, the ship itself remained under the control of Parks Canada after being declared a National Historic Site in 1962.

Despite the clear administrative distinction between Parks Canada and the Vancouver Maritime Museum when it came to the division of labour, the records in this collection reflect that the St. Roch was very much a shared responsibility. Parks Canada, in conjunction with the Maritime Museum, was primarily responsible for the display and maintenance of the St. Roch until 1995, at which point the ship was largely turned over to the Vancouver Maritime Museum Society. At this point the federal government had guaranteed funding for the continued maintenance and preservation of the ship only for two more years. The then-director of the museum, Jim Delgado, in conjunction with members of the RCMP, decided to embark on a complex fundraising scheme, which would involve the sale of a large painting entitled Isumataq by Ken Kirby, and a recreation of the voyages of the St. Roch. These activities took place in 1999 and 2000. Since that time the St. Roch has continued to serve as a historical attraction under the care of the Vancouver Maritime Museum and its parent society.

Scope & content
The collection consists of graphic material including photographic prints, negatives, and slides relating to the voyages of the St. Roch. Many of these images have been identified as copies procured by Parks Canada and the Vancouver Maritime Museum during their respective times as custodians of the St. Roch. Original photographs and negatives may also be found among this collection. Where possible, their donor has been identified.

With the exception of the series "Photo files by subject (VMM03-1-4)", the images have been arranged by category and sub-category and assigned an appropriate mnemonic. This system was developed by Parks Canada and is no longer used for new photographs entering the collection. There are 3 main categories with variety of subcategories. See attached classification scheme breakdown.

Related materials
See also the VMM Photograph Collection (VMM48)
Reproductions: Parks Canada still maintains ownership of this collection and must therefore be cited for any re-use of the imagery in this collection.
Access: At the discretion of the Archivist.
Related vessels
St. Roch