The West Vancouver Historical Society began as a committee within the Rotary Club of West Vancouver. Several active Rotarians, including Rupert Harrison, Hugh Johnston, Harvey Hill, and Thomas Erling-Tyrell, saw the need for preserving the history of West Vancouver. The concept was discussed at a series of meetings with the Mayor, Municipal Manager, and other officials of the Corporation of the District of West Vancouver. The Rotary Club was encouraged to proceed and the members approved the proposal on April 30, 1980. Start-up funding was assigned and an application for incorporation under the Society Act was prepared.
The West Vancouver Historical Society was incorporated by the Rotary Club as a non-profit society under the Society Act of British Columbia on July 17, 1980. An interim executive committee of Rotarians was appointed to organize a series of events as part of a membership campaign. The old West Vancouver Ferry “Hollyburn “ was chartered for a memory cruise and the first sixty members were signed up. A series of lectures and slide shows attracted sufficient new members during 1981 that the Rotary committee stepped aside and call for an election of officers from within the society membership. The first annual general meeting of the Society was held January 25, 1982. Bernard (Bernie) G. Holt, recently retired Senior Secondary School Principal, was elected President of the Society.
In 1984 the name of the West Vancouver Historical Society was changed to West Vancouver Museum and Historical Society (authorized September 12, 1984). This reflected a change in orientation. Initially the major purpose of the society had been to collect archival material, and only secondarily museum artifacts. The change in name indicated that the society would now also collect museum artifacts and start working towards the creation of a museum and archives in West Vancouver. The Society worked in partnership with the Municipality in the collection, preservation, storing, and housing of historical materials. Any items donated to the society became the property of the Municipality (the Corporation of the District of West Vancouver).
In March of 1983 the Historical Society began publication of a newsletter. The original title of the newsletter was Histrionics, later changed to History-Onics. The purpose of the newsletter is to inform the membership about the activities of the Society, and to publish vignettes related to the history of West Vancouver.
The Historical Society grew rapidly to embrace more than five hundred members. A fund raising program was implemented to obtain suitable housing for the growing collection. The Society was instrumental in securing the former home of Gertrude Lawson as a site for the West Vancouver Museum and Archives. The Society succeeded in raising more than $500,000, which, with Municipal, Provincial, and Heritage partners, led to the establishment of the West Vancouver Museum and Archives. The building was extensively renovated, and officially dedicated as the home of the West Vancouver Museum and Archives on June 29, 1992.
By 1993 professional operating staff was in place and the community Museum & Archives was a reality. The Society was able to revert to a support role by forming a volunteer pool for the facility and fund raising activities. At the annual general meeting on March 25, 1993 the name was changed back to West Vancouver Historical Society.