With the flick of a switch, a lightbox flashes on, illuminating the vivid colours of slide film.
As the white light shines through, the small squares burst with bright images of the flora, fauna and insect life on Burnaby Mountain in the 1990s.
Plastic frames are lovingly labelled: “horse tail,” “water spider,” or even “a bee.”
Last week, City of Burnaby archivists finished processing a collection of 35 millimetre photographic slides donated by the Burnaby Mountain Preservation Society.
The images were part of the society’s campaign to preserve the natural ecology of Burnaby Mountain, which eventually resulted in the 1996 dedication of the mountain as park land.
More than 125 of the photographs are available to view on the archives’ online collection.
Julia Alforde, city archives clerk, said one of her favourite photos from the collection is of a grey owl alone on a snowy branch.
“I think it’s one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen in my life,” Alforde said.
While it’s common for families and businesses to give archival donations, the photos from the preservation society are a rarer sight in the archives.
Alforde said she was delighted to work on a project that highlighted both conservation and heritage.
“(There’s) just so much thought and attention given to plants and animals—it was like somebody really cared when they took these photographs, and you can see it in how beautiful they are.”
The identities of the photographers aren’t known for certain, though some slides bear the name Michael Wheately. Another potential photographer is one of the preservation society’s founders, Steve Mancinelli.
The slides, seen on a lightbox, are brilliant in colour. A lemon-yellow iris blazes sharply in front of dusky violet waters behind.
Song sparrows, long-toed salamanders and a Pacific sideband snail traipse through the woods.
One photograph from 1997 details the delicate yellow textures of “dog vomit slime mold also known as scrambled egg slime.” In the still twilight of September 1998, a sandpiper munches on a dragonfly.
People are few and far between: a cyclist bikes past on a dirt trail; a hand holds a garter snake; a young girl reaches for a red berry.
The thread-thin legs of a harvestman spider spread long against the petals of a purple trillium flower show the fine detail of the photographs.
It took about three months to process the collection.