In March 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. responded to an invitation from the Student Society to speak at SFU. His letter is part of the Simon Fraser Student Society fonds preserved at the Archives.

SFU History

You have what...?!! and other interesting things you didn't know about the SFU Archives

July 01, 2021

We are excited to re-launch the SFU Archives blog initiated in 2015 for the University’s fiftieth anniversary year.

Each month, we will use this space to:

  • Feature interesting stories from SFU’s history as documented and preserved in the Archives
  • Highlight new acquisitions
  • Share new developments in our three program areas:
    • Access & Privacy
    • Archives
    • Records Management
  • Shine a spotlight on individuals and projects using our holdings
  • Let you know when new material becomes accessible for teaching and research

The blog will complement our newly launched Instagram account @sfuarchivesand provide more depth to the content that we post there.

We thought we would use this first post to share a few interesting bits of trivia that you might not know about the SFU Archives and provide a glimpse of the types of content that we will be sharing through our social media channels:


The year the SFU Archives was established. With so much going on at the University in its early days, they must have realized the importance of documenting its history pretty soon! 

Say “cheese!”…

The SFU Archives holds nearly 1 million photographs documenting the University – its campuses, people, programs and events – that’s an average of nearly 18,000 photographs per year of its existence!

Feminism, social justice, and bees…

In addition to official University records, the SFU Archives acquires, preserves and makes accessible the records of private individuals and organizations supporting research interests at the University. These include extensive holdings of records relating to the women’s movement, social activism, and apiculture in B.C. (yes, we acquire records about bees!)

Oldest item

Although the University didn’t open until 1965, the SFU Archives has private records dating back to the early 19thcentury. The oldest record held by the Archives is an inventory of “Equipment of Fort Liard” handwritten by Simon Fraser himself in 1803. You can read more about the interesting history of the Simon Fraser Collection here


The number of pages of records reviewed by SFU Archives staff in 2020 in response to access requests made under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).

You have what…?!

One of the most unexpected items in our holdings is a file containing FBI documents signed by Director J. Edgar Hoover. The records relate to the Bureau’s investigation in the 1950’s into allegations of subversive conduct and disloyalty to the American government levelled against Dallas Smythe, a Canadian-born academic and former U.S. civil servant with pacifist, left-wing political beliefs. Smythe later became the first chair of SFU's Department of Communication Studies, teaching at the University until 1986. Other noteworthy correspondence in the Archives includes a letter written by Martin Luther King Jr. to the Student Society in March 1966; in the letter, he very politely declines an invitation to speak at SFU and explains the focus of his work at that time.

More than just paper…

Every year, SFU Archives destroys approximately 100 metres of inactive university records that have no enduring administrative, legal, fiscal or historical value to the University, and accepts another 25 metres for archival retention through our Records Management program. These actions are guided by Records Retention Schedules and Disposal Authorities (RRSDAs) approved by the University. While the majority of these records are paper-based, we are also working hard to manage and preserve the University’s born digital records. Using our digital records transfer tool SFU MoveIt, we are currently working with the Centre for Educational Excellence to acquire the Teaching and Learning Centre’s born digital records.

Pass the popcorn…

SFU Archives is in the process of digitizing over 200 student films dating from 1965 to 1989 for preservation and access. A majority of the films have not been viewed for many years, and we are enjoying re-discovering these gems with subjects ranging from a street corner fiddler in Gastown, the Cold War, consumerism, and Vancouver architecture, to a man who made peanut butter in the basement of Harbour Centre for over 35 years. Both documentaries and fiction, the films include several national and international award winners.

We look forward to sharing more with you soon!