In the words of Mary Norton, the Chief Librarian of Cramahe Public Library, “an online presence is critical for areas like Cramahe Township to attract visitors – virtual and on-site – and to communicate and maintain their identity as part of the social fabric of Ontario.”

Digitizing and making accessible our heritage can have a huge social impact. Here’s what happened with Cramahe Township, a small set of hamlets near Peterborough.

In 2013, the Cramahe Public Library partnered with Heritage Cramahe and obtained a provincial ministry grant to digitize local collections: maps, photos, postcards, documents, letters, biographies, reports, artifacts, the Colborne Women’s Institute scrapbooks, and the only existing copies of the now-defunct Colborne Chronicle Newspaper.

As a result of digitizing and sharing its heritage, the library:

  • was shortlisted for the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport’s 2014 Ontario Public Library Service Award for Innovation;
  • received additional grant funding from the Trillium Foundation;
  • was recognized for its value to the township by the Town Council;
  • received additional funds from the town to support an ongoing digitization program.

The Cramahe Digital Archive received over 15,000 hits in its first year online, mainly from across North America, but also as far away as Europe and Australia. Not bad for a community of 6,000 people!

They reported more young people coming to the library and asking for historical material, public school teachers including digital materials in the curriculum, and higher circulation figures of the print copies in the archives.

It also fostered civic engagement by inspiring a first “Cramahe History” event, where volunteers and the local community came together. Community members such as Harold Harndon, age 88, came and shared stories about being born and raised in Cramahe.

This is just one example of the opportunities generated by fostering awareness of local history and pride in the community’s heritage. By telling stories, this library became an agent for social change.