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Air Photos: Home

An overview of Air Photos, UNBC's Air Photo Collection, and information for accessing these photos for your research needs

UNBC's Air Photo Collection

UNBC's Air Photo Collection covers British Columbia, with a focus on central and northern areas of the province, with photos dating back to the 1920s. Your access to air photos isn't limited to UNBC's collection, though! Inter-library loan service is available to bring in photos not held at UNBC. This guide will cover finding photos of interest from provincial and federal governments, determining which photos are held at UNBC, and how to request photos from the UNBC library as well as through inter-library loan.

What is Aerial Photography?

An aerial photograph, or air photo, in broad terms, is any photograph taken from the air. Normally, air photos are taken vertically from an aircraft using a highly-accurate camera. There are several things you can look for to determine what makes one photograph different from another of the same area including type of film, scale, and overlap (Definition from NRCAN).

Individual air photos are identified by a Roll and Frame Number. The Roll Number identifies the flight that the photo is from, and the Frame Number is the specific photo from the Roll. UNBC's collection features provincial and Federal air photos of central and northern BC.


BC1591 - 18

  • BC indicates the photo is from a provincial flight
  • BC1591 is the roll number
  • 18 is the frame number


  • A indicates the photo is from a federal flight
  • A11342 is the roll number
  • 41 is the frame number

Why Use Air Photos?

Air photos give you an exact picture of the landscape of an area at a specific point in time. As aerial photography by government bodies goes back to the 1920s, this means that air photos can be used to track changes to landscapes over time, as well as to give an exact picture of a place at specific points in history. While there are not photos taken of all of the province every year, UNBC's collection generally includes photos from multiple years for areas of potential research interest.

Subject Librarian

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Susie Wilson