We have been accumulating the treasures in the Museum of Vancouver’s Collection for over one hundred years.


Great Fire pocketwatch.    Significance :  In 1886, the city of Vancouver was nearly destroyed by a brushfire which raged out of control. Only a handful of buildings were left standing and dozens of people were injured. Alexander Strathie and his wife Emily managed to escape the blaze by taking refuge onboard the Robert Kerr, a ship which took refugees from the fire to safety in the harbour. After the fire was extinguished and against her husband’s advice, Emily hired a man to row her back to shore to collect their trunks.  Once there, she spotted two First Nations women, one holding her pincushion. Emily asked where she had found the pincushion, and the woman pointed to a location not far off shore. Emily and her rower used an oar to search under the surface of the water, where they found Alexander’s pocketwatch as well as Emily’s gold locket, which had been tangled in a handful of kelp. Though it survived the fire, being submerged in saltwater effectively ruined the pocketwatch. The glass crystal is missing, as are the hour, minute and second hands.   Date Range : 1880's   Place of Use:  Vancouver   Dimensions:  6 cm diameter   Museum Location:  Storage   Catalog Number:  H972.3.111   Donor:  City of Vancouver Archives

Our collection is home to important historical, ethnographic, archaeological, Asian studies, and natural history objects.

Over the years MOV’s direction and vision has transformed.

We began with a goal of showcasing the curiosities of the world to enlighten Vancouverites; however, in 2009 we shifted our goal towards showcasing the City of Vancouver to the world.

Now, we steer the development of our collection to meet that objective and new acquisitions centre on reflecting the story of Vancouver.

When the Art, Historical and Scientific Association (the original MOV) first formed in 1894, the goal was to showcase the curiosities of the world for the enlightenment of Vancouverites.

While building and refining these collections, and at the same time developing a Vancouver history collection, the museum continued on this broad collecting path.

New acquisitions centre on reflecting the City of Vancouver story, from major directional shifts in communities to those items creating everyday memories.

openMOV offers a more in-depth look, a chance to explore our new publically accessible on-line database and associated digitized images.

The creation of a web accessible database and associated digitized images has been made possible through grants from;

  • The City of Vancouver
  • The BC Arts Council
  • The Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage
  • The Irving K. Barber BC History Digitization Project