The Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) insisted on meticulous record-keeping and most of its records remained in its possession. The result is a documentary archive remarkable for its size—more than 3,000 linear metres—and its continuity. The earliest HBC record in the archives is a minute book dating from 1671, recording decisions made at the meetings of the HBC's Governor and Committee. With the exception of a four-year gap, all the minute books from 1671 to 1970 are in the HBCA.
The HBC was a hierarchical organization which operated over a vast area. Its administrative and geographical complexity is reflected in its records. Records of decision makers in cities such as London and Montreal, of clerks and accountants at remote fur trade posts, of ship's captains and explorers, all have their place in the archival records of the HBC.
The changes made by the HBC as it continually adapted to new circumstances— its union with the North West Company, its role in the Red River Settlement, its move into land sales and retailing, its First World War shipping business and a variety of other enterprises—add to the richness and complexity of its textual records.
In addition to the records of the Hudson's Bay Company, HBCA's collection of private records includes diaries, letters and research notes. Private records provide an excellent complement to the official records of the HBC documenting, for instance, personal experiences within the HBC and at its various posts.
Access to textual records is available in the Archives of Manitoba Research Room. Search Keystone for descriptions of a growing number of HBCA holdings. Additional information is available in the Archives Research Room and through the Online Finding Aid.