The St. Roch Research Collection represents an accumulation of 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 drydock at Kitsilano Point in Vancouver. The location of the St. Roch in drydock 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.
The records in this research collection were created and received by three separate juridical entities carrying out three different administrative functions. Firstly, the research collection includes records created and received by the crew of the St. Roch and other members of the RCMP and its governing body during the ship’s active existence. Secondly, the collection includes records that were created and received by the Vancouver Maritime Museum regarding the restoration and ongoing preservation and display of the ship. The collection also includes the records created and received by Parks Canada pertaining to the time during which that organization was responsible for the care and display of the ship. Finally this collection includes records relating to the fundraising voyage of the RCMP vessel the Nadon, during the period in which in was renamed the St. Roch II, as well as the records of the ice breaker the Simon Fraser which accompanied the Nadon on this voyage.
The records relate to the building of the St. Roch, the activities carried out by its crew members during its active career, the retirement of the St. Roch to Vancouver, the construction of the A-frame shelter, the preservation of the ship, exhibition of the ship and related items, as well as records created through research to support these curatorial activities. The records also relate to various fundraising activities carried out by the both the Vancouver Maritime Museum and the RCMP, specifically the voyage of the Nadon and the Simon Fraser and the sale of Ken Kirby’s painting, "Isumataq".
The collection consists of agreements, articles, artifact lists, books, business cards, budgets, guest books, contact lists, correspondence, drawings, ship plans, architectural plans, financial records, invitations, memoranda, minutes of meetings, permission forms, photographs, notes, press releases, publications (books, pamphlets, and newspaper articles), receipts, reports, schedules, slides, negatives, surveys, manuals, audio cassettes, video cassette, log books, reports, maps, and a flag.
The collection is arranged into six series.
During the course of their existence the materials in the St. Roch Research Collection were filed in a haphazard manner. In most cases little attempt was made to file records in a manner that reflected the order of their creation or use. Many of the records of that were created by the RCMP either while serving on the St. Roch itself or otherwise, were over the course of time intermingled with the records of the Maritime Museum and Parks Canada. Short of refilling the vast majority of the materials on an item level, it would be impossible to create an arrangement which would reflect the functional context in which the records were created. The present arrangement reflects the way in which these files were used by the archives. It should also be noted that the present arrangement has been completed in order to facilitate access rather to accurately represent the context of creation of the materials in the collection. This arrangement was decided upon partially because of the disorganized state of the materials, and partially because, in order to correctly arrange the materials, it would be necessary to establish various fonds and series in the museums' archives to reflect the various offices of the museum. It was determined that rather than arranging these records into fonds based on provenance, the collection would be bound together by the relation of the records to the St. Roch.
For more photographs related to the St. Roch crew and her travels in the Arctic, please see the "Parks Canada St. Roch Photograph Collection".
The original report (including photographs) by Lt. K.H. Bogguild (Royal Canadian Navy) prepared while serving aboard the St. Roch in the Arctic can be found as part of the "VMM Archives Collection" (VMM02), Box 5.
For additional records related to the St. Roch and crew members, please refer to the "VMM Archives Collection" (VMM02).