Research and Teaching Potential

The web site offers a research tool for myriad historical enquiries. As a teaching tool, it has tremendous potential. It can be used as an introduction to historical methods involving quantification and the analysis of statistical data. It can connect students to an array of primary documents and can demonstrate relationships between the documents.

Broad Street, 1890, looking south towards View Street. Consider, example, traces of Broad Street, Victoria, in the early 1890s. We could start with an archival photograph of the street, like the image on the left. By examining the picture, we learn quite a bit about this particular street. We can see how the street looked, how buildings were clustered on either side of it, and how businesses announced their presence to passers-by.

We can learn more about the street by consulting a city directory for the period. And we can learn a great deal about the people who worked on this street by consulting the 1891 census. For an illustration of how documents relating to this particular street are connected, click here.

Towards a GIS

The web site functions on several levels. It's a dynamic integrated database. It's a portal to other web sites and internet resources. It's also intended to provide a foundation for an historical GIS [Geographic Information System] of Victoria and Vancouver Island.

Map of downtown Victoria land use, 1890 To that end, we've focused on four temporal points —1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. We have compiled and assembled data that intersects with these points. The matrix we've created includes spatial data —such as fire insurance plans — and attribute data, derived from directories and census records.

Victoria and Nanaimo may be the best documented cities in Canada. We have complete census returns from 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911, plus street directories and tax assessment rolls for each decade. With an extraordinarily rich dataset like this one, the researach potential is unlimited.

Further Applications

The integrated databases on are most directly relevant to the history of Vancouver Island. But our web site has a wider application. The primary material available here can be utilized to explore larger questions about Canada in the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Patrick A. Dunae, Ph.D
viHistory editor & project director