Fonds RBSC-ARC-1756 - Icelandic Archives of British Columbia fonds

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Icelandic Archives of British Columbia fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the fonds.

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Physical description

ca. 8200 photographs and other material

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Administrative history

The Icelandic Archives of British Columbia (IABC) was a community archives whose mission was to collect and maintain documentation and artifacts concerning the history of Icelanders and their descendants in the Province of British Columbia. The IABC was established in 1975 and curated privately by Robert Ásgeirsson, originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The IABC's collections began from a research project for a potential documentary film about New Iceland, where Ásgeirsson began accumulating photographs from community members of the Icelandic National League (INL) in Manitoba. Soon after moving to Vancouver and engaging with the Icelandic Canadian Club of British Columbia, Ásgeirsson saw that the important cultural memory of the Icelandic experience on the West Coast could be lost, as the knowledge base was in the hands of only a few aging community members. He began to accumulate photographic collections donated by Icelandic families and photographers in British Columbia, as well as books, ephemera, textual, graphic, and audiovisual material. In the fall of 1985, Ásgeirsson declared the IABC to be a public collection.

With the support of the Icelandic community in Vancouver the IABC continued its primary activities of expanding its collection to document Icelandic social and cultural endeavors. The IABC has mounted several exhibits since the 1980s, culminating in a permanent exhibit, Nordic Spirit: Early Icelandic Settlement on the West Coast, held at the Icelandic Care Home Höfn. The IABC dissolved in 2015.

Custodial history

The material accumulated by the IABC remained in the custody of Robert Ásgeirsson until he began storing the materials in the Icelandic Canadian Club Iceland House in Burnaby ca. 1997. Approximately around 2007, the archives were stored in Ásgeirsson’s home until they were transferred to the University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections in 2015.

Although there are many community organizations represented in the IABC fonds, the material is still considered created by the IABC, as it was accumulated and curated by the archives during its existence.

Scope and content

The IABC fonds reflects the community collecting practices that the IABC undertook to preserve the history of Icelanders in British Columbia. Fonds is arranged in eight subfonds that reflect the various community organizations from which the archives originally collected.

Fonds documents the IABC’s commitment to preserving the lived experiences of its Icelandic community and is arranged into seven series that correspond to the IABC’s activities: administration and operation; providing educational programs and collecting biographies as well as written and oral histories; collecting Icelandic music; compiling a collection of Icelandic newspapers and publications; holding exhibits and events; acquiring photographic collections; and lastly acquiring collections of textual records, ephemera, and artifacts from its community.

Fonds also contains eight other subfonds of textual, photographic, audiovisual, and ephemeral material of Vancouver-based Icelandic Societies including the Sólskin Society, the Icelandic Canadian Club of British Columbia (ICC of BC), the Icelandic National League of North America (INL of NA), Icelandic Care Home Höfn Society, the Scandinavian Cultural Society (SCS), Ströndin Internet Radio, the Danish Archives, and the Icelandic Lutheran Church.

Notes area

Physical condition

Some items in the textual items in the fonds are brittle and are undergoing deterioration. Some records in the fonds feature rusting inorganic materials (e.g. staples and paperclips, spiral notebook coils).

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was acquired by the University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections from the donor, Robert Ásgeirsson, in several accessions.


There were several established collections that the IABC had created during its existence which were retained as subfonds. As the curator of the original material, Ásgeirsson imposed an ordering of the materials that has been retained.

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Language and script note

Material is in English and Icelandic. Some material in German.

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Restrictions on access

Some of the files contained in this fonds contain personal information and are thus restricted. To see these files, or for more information, please contact the Archivist.

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File list available.

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Further accruals are not expected.

General note

Books that are a part of the Icelandic Archives of British Columbia fonds have been removed and are catalogued separately.


The archivist has attempted to remove rusting inorganic materials from the fonds, but some may remain.

Physical description

ca. 8200 photographs: multiple processes
ca. 9 m of textual material
91 audio cassettes
55 vinyl records: 78, 33 1/3 and 45 RPM
21 posters
33 video tapes: Betamax and VHS
8 reel to reel tape recordings
ca. 8 scrapbooks
ca. 5 guest books
3 books
3 architectural plans
2 license plates
2 rubber stamps
2 gavels
2 rings
2 textiles
1 patch
1 pin
1 pennant
1 woodcarving
1 hairbrush
1 braid of human hair
1 plaque
1 cast iron seal
1 commemorative pin

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Finding aid prepared by Andrea Tarnawsky, Atreya Madrone, Katherine Lee, Jinhee Lee, and Jacky Lai between 2017 and 2023.

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