Fonds - Chester P. Lyons fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Chester P. Lyons fonds

General material designation

  • Graphic material
  • Moving images
  • Sound recording
  • Textual record

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

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1932 - 1988 (Creation)
    Lyons, Chester P.

Physical description area

Physical description

ca. 3.5 m of graphic material and other material

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Chester Peter Lyons, often referred to as Ches or Chess, was born near Regina, Saskatchewan in 1915 and moved to Penticton, British Columbia in 1919 where his family took up fruit farming. Lyons attended high school in the Okanagan Valley and hiked, camped and fished throughout the region. In 1939, Lyons obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in forest engineering from the University of British Columbia and began his career as a forest engineer with the BC Forest Service and was involved in surveying, reforestation and development. In 1940, he took up residence in Victoria. Lyons soon became a key figure in the newly established Parks Branch, where he helped explore, plan, and otherwise establish the provincial parks system. His park planning included Manning, Tweedsmuir, Wells Gray, and Bowron Lakes, which he characteristically documented in photographs and moving images. Later in his career with BC Parks, Lyons shifted his focus to human heritage objectives. To this end, he played a key role in the restoration and management of Barkerville from 1958 to 1963 and undertook the Stop-Of-Interest plaque program adjacent to major highways in British Columbia.

After taking early retirement from the Department of Recreation and Conservation in 1963, Lyons pursued his many projects in nature interpretation as an author, lecturer, wildlife and travel filmaker, television producer, and photographer. As an author of numerous books and articles, Lyons introduced the local and natural history of British Columbia to visitors and residents alike. He is best known for his popular fieldguides on the plants of British Columbia and Washington State, especially the various editions of Trees, Shrubs, and Flowers to Know in BC (1952). These fieldguides highlighted his talent as a plant illustrator as he drew the original illustrations for these books.

Lyons became a popular film lecturer, notably on the National Audubon Society lecture circuit and the World Around US travel series which incorporated Lyons' photographs and moving images from his travels in BC and internationally. As an independent documentary filmaker and television producer, Lyons is best remembered for his contributions to the CBC television program Klahanie the Great Outdoors. Lyons also established a travel company, Golden Eye World Travel, which took him all over the world as travel-tour guide. His international travels contributed more subjects for his films and photographs. In his lifetime, Lyons was also the founding father of the BC Museum Association, was involved in Toastmasters, and helped plan BC Parks reunions.

Lyons died on December 20, 1998 in Hawaii due to complications from a ruptured gall bladder, just weeks after his fieldguide Wildflowers of Washington was published.

Custodial history

Fonds donated to UVic Archives by Lyons' daughter, Susan Lyons, in 2007.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of material relating to Lyons's work as a BC Parks developer, botanist, author, lecturer, independent documentary filmmaker, wildlife photographer, and world traveller. It includes a variety of textual records, moving images, photographic materials, sound recordings, and maps. The fonds has been arranged into six series: 1) published materials; 2) scripts; 3) field notebooks; 4) photographic materials; 5) audiovisual materials; and 6) miscellaneous records.

Notes area

Physical condition

A small number of textual records show water damage, including approximately 4 field notebooks with rusty coils. A very small number of slides, especially glass slides, exhibit mould. The cellulose acetate based photographic material (i.e. safety film negatives) exhibit signs of vinegar syndrome.

Immediate source of acquisition

Fonds donated to UVic Archives by Lyons' daughter, Susan Lyons, in 2007.


Fonds received with most sections exhibiting no discernible original order. Creator's arrangement preserved whenever possible; any necessary arrangement by archivist is duly noted in description. Boxlist documenting order in which fonds was received is available upon request.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Videocassette recordings of some of Lyons' moving image footage can be located at the British Columbia Archives in the BC Parks fonds and at Library and Archives Canada in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) fonds. These are possibly alternative cuts as those films held by UVic Archives.

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Series descriptions, subseries descriptions and file lists available.

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No further accruals expected.


Negatives and photographs have been separated and the small number of mouldy glass slides have been segregated for preservation purposes.

Physical description

Includes 84 m of textual records, ca. 5,430 slides, ca. 2243 photographs, ca. 4383 negatives, ca. 400 drawings, 91 film reels, ca. 66 field notebooks, 16 audio cassettes, 9 lapel pins, 7 monographs, 4 audio reels, 3 computer disks, 3 paintings, 2 photo albums, and 1 scrapbook.

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  • English

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