Digitizing the Angelo Principe Italian-Canadian Newspaper Collection

Adapted from The ‘Angelo Principe’ Italian Canadian Newspaper Collection by Dr. Matteo Brera

Mastehad of La Vittoria (The Victory) Italian-Canadian newspaper

In 2014, researcher and scholar Dr. Angelo Principe donated his extensive newspaper and book collection to the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections of York University Libraries. The ‘Angelo Principe Collection’ includes materials entrusted to him for preservation by Italian Canadian activists from the first half of the twentieth century like Attilio Bortolotti and Benny Bottos, as well as the surviving documents belonging to Augusto Bersani, transnational political activist, facilitator and secret agent for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Six years later, a key part of the collection was digitized in a collaboration between Michael Moir, Head of the Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, and OurDigitalWorld, resulting in a unique online collection of rare interwar Italian-language newspapers published in North America. These include Il Bollettino Italo-Canadese, Il Cittadino Canadese, Il Giornale Italo-Canadese, Il Lavoratore, L’Araldo del Canada, L’Italia, L’Italia Nuova, L’Italo Canadese, L’Operaio Italo-Canadese, La Vittoria, La Voce degli Italo-Canadesi, and La Voce Operaia. The newspapers were processed using OurDigitalWorld’s multilingual Optical Recognition Software (OCR) and are full text searchable in both English and Italian.

The significance of this donation cannot be overstressed. Thanks to Michael Moir’s vision in working with OurDigitalWorld, and to Dr. Matteo Brera for his work adding rich contextual and descriptive metadata to the collection items, Dr. Principe’s legacy for the study of the construction of the Italian Canadian identity and transcultural exchanges between the Old and the New World is manifest in this online collection, providing an invaluable research tool to be used and enjoyed by scholars and the community.

Explore the collection at https://vitacollections.ca/yul-italiancanadiannewspapers/search

This research and digitization project was conceptualized and directed by Dr. Matteo Brera (mbrera@yorku.ca) and was made possible by generous funding from the Zorzi Family Italian-Canadian Archival Fund, established in 2017 and dedicated to encouraging the study of Italian-Canadian archival materials. The project was also sponsored by York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies.  

ODW Quarterly Newsletter September 2021

courtesy of the Alpena Public Library Great Lakes Maritime Collection

This autumn, the ODW Quarterly Newsletter knows no borders!

Learn more about our US partner collections, from Chicago-area newspapers to Great Lakes history, these extensive sites are one-stop research goldmines.

The Fall conference season will see us speaking at the Creative Commons Global Summit with “GLAM Project for Access to Community Newspapers” and at the Access2021 Conference with “Revisiting the Paper Files:
OCR from paper versus microfilm

As well, we’ll be virtually exhibiting at the Michigan and Illinois Library Association conferences in October.

Stay tuned for the Government Information Day(s) 2021 in December that OurDigitalWorld is co-hosting with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Have your say and learn more about the National Heritage Digitization Strategy community calls for feedback on their Strategic Plan.

Back to School with OurDigitalWorld

SS#7 – Humphrey-Rosseau 1946 School Bus with Bill Gates and girls
courtesy of Rosseau Historical Society Digital Collections

Whether you’re homeschooling, heading back to class or helping others with their research, ODW has school project resources for librarians, teachers and students of all ages…


Ontario Community Newspapers and INK
Two major gateways to hundreds of digitized Ontario newspaper titles, full text and index records, over 200 years of publishing history, ranging from Windsor to Waterloo, Thunder Bay to Petawawa!
See a full list of regions covered here

Illinois Newspapers
One place to search digitized newspapers with index records for access to dozens of Chicago-area publications from Algonquin Area, Downers Grove, Glenview, Highland Park, Libertyville, McHenry and Wilmette.

Local History

OurOntario.ca portal
Search across 2.5 million photos, documents, oral histories, paintings, postcards, exhibits, newspapers, scrapbooks and more!

Contributions from 300 heritage organizations in Ontario, including more than 200 VITA Toolkit partners

Community collections from Canada & the US
Explore local history collections, heritage and current newspapers covering military, maritime, women’s and multicultural histories, built heritage and community contributions from the past and current day.

Special Collections & Exhibits

Three virtual exhibits highlighting items from the VITA Toolkit user collections, arranged and researched to tell the chronology of multicultural experiences in Ontario. Both the Exhibits and Curriculum Resources are a great starting point to learn about topics like the Abolitionist Movement, Japanese Internment, Women’s Rights, and the evolution of Ontario as the home and product of our multicultural histories.

Explore the site and download Curriculum Resources

Agnes Macphail Digital Collection
Explore the life, history and politics of the first woman elected to Canadian Parliament.

Indigenous Histories
Community collections from Six Nations and Kanhiote Tyendinaga Territory Public Libraries.

Italian-Canadian newspapers
Search across 12 publications in Italian and English for news covering 1930-1946.

Holodomor Digital Collections
Learn more first hand history and about the impact of the Famine in Ukraine, 1932-1933.

ODW Quarterly Newsletter June 2021

Four Port Perry area newspaper mastheads overlapping

Our Summer Quarterly newsletter highlights some exciting new collections as well as our recent activities and upcoming events including:

A recent digitization project of newspaper collections thanks to the perseverance of the Lake Scugog Historical Society of Port Perry, Ontario, bringing four new titles online:

Ontario Observer (1857-1873)
Port Perry Standard (1867-1868)
North Ontario Observer (1873-1919)
Port Perry Star (1907-1933)

More work has been done to enhance the Ontario Scrapbook Hansard, the earliest reportage from the Ontario Legislature captured in clippings, now full text searchable with enhanced metadata for easier linking and browsing.

The first person accounts of the Ukranian famine of 1933-34 are captured in the Maniak Collection, a recent and growing addition to the Holodomor Digital Collections.

Learn more about the funding opportunities from the Digital Museums Canada for online exhibits.

June is Indigenous History Month and OurDigitalWorld is taking steps to update the VITA Digital Toolkit and support our users to decolonize their collection descriptions.

Join ODW at our virtual booths at the American Library Association Annual Conference and the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Library Associations’ joint conference.

ODW Quarterly Update March 2021

Image of multiple speech bubbles with the the word Newsletter on top

Check out our Spring Quarterly newsletter, showcasing the recent Cemeteries Module event and our panel presentation at the Ontario Library Association’s Super Conference about Capturing COVID-19 as a Community Collection.

Read more and link to the final report from the Heritage Content Priorities Task Group.

Welcome new collections from Smiths Falls Public Library.

Visit us at spring conferences with the British Columbia Library Association and the National Council for Public History.

Also, learn more about a call for proposal for the Digitizing Hidden Voices grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR).

Unburying the dead: Bringing cemetery records to life

Cemeteries Module Think Tank

Cemeteries are being documented across Ontario often in inconsistent styles and platforms which means users can’t find information easily and efficiently. For example, the Chatham-Kent and Oxford County Public Libraries provide limited access to thousands of grave site records created by community members; the Ontario Ancestors also hosts multiple headstone and cemetery recording projects; and OurDigitalWorld has clients entering or migrating cemetery and headstone data into their VITA Toolkit collections. However, the dense data being captured in these and other projects around Canada and the World are disparate, often unstructured, and sometimes only searchable using browser search options.

Thanks to the Government of Canada’s Department of Canadian Heritage First Spark grant, ODW recently co-hosted a one-day heuristic think tank during which, a group of key genealogical, heritage and community members explored the needs and requirements to consider sustainable systems for capturing and sharing cemetery, headstone, and related genealogical resources.

Canadian Headstones site, Ontario Ancestors

The challenge of the day was to:

  • explore existing efforts of Genealogical society members, Public Librarians, community members with gravestone data collections, and software developers
  • identify the challenges, opportunities and requirements to improve recording schema and standards, and
  • consider how to improve public access and discovery of local cemetery and headstone databases.

Using real life cemetery and gravestone records, private and organizational databases, and other international examples, we analysed and discussed best ways forward to capture local cemetery history and content, identify schema and standards that satisfy stakeholders from different disciplines, and what the development implications are for creating solutions.

Cemeteries Index, Richmond Hill Public Library

There was no expectation of arriving at any single solution, rather the group discussion flowed across many subjects, including data input standards (e.g. geolocation/GPS input), multi-lingual requirements, OCR options (i.e. text recognition from headstone photographs), hierarchical and lateral record linking, crowdsourcing options, increasing search and discovery options, and the challenges of preserving and storing the vast quantity of information generated by these projects.

The conversation helped us recognize a few common themes: that user expectations are for in-and-out access, requiring straightforward search and discovery tools and access to actual data like headstone photos, rather than finding aids; that there are opportunities for encouraging or implementing Linked Open Data mechanisms within systems to help with inter-connectivity and aggregation; and, that most existing systems are databases and websites, not archives, so there is an opportunity for wider discussion about preserving the information at a national level.

Thanks to co-hosts Megan Cowan & Andrea Johnson, Chatham Kent Public Library and Jess Posgate, OurDigitalWorld, and our participants: Steve Fulton & Joe Wilson, Ontario Ancestors; Ryan van Leeuwen, Oxford County Library; Jane MacNamara, cemetery and headstone transcriber; and Walter Lewis, OurDigitalWorld.

We welcome your thoughts, please contact ODW for more information.

CALL FOR EXPRESSIONS OF INTEREST: National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) Advisory Committee

The National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) invites expressions of interest from the GLAM (gallery,  library, archive, and museum) community to join the NHDS Advisory Committee. The NHDS Advisory  Committee is an unincorporated body whose members are aligned in engaging the Canadian library,  archive, and museum community and Canadian creators in sharing expertise, to facilitate the digitization,  preservation, and discovery of Canadian heritage. The NHDS Advisory Committee is accountable to the  broader GLAM community which it endeavours to represent. The Chair of the Advisory Committee reports  on its activities to the NHDS Executive Committee. 

Membership in the NHDS Advisory Committee is limited to Canadian public or not-for-profit GLAM (gallery, library, archives, and museum) organizations, committed to, and with a demonstrated investment in the digitization of, preservation of, and access to Canadian heritage. 

For more information on the NHDS Advisory Committee, please consult the Terms of Reference and the  NHDS website. 

NHDS Advisory Committee members may also be called to serve on Working Groups or Task Groups with  an additional time commitment. 

To submit an expression of interest, please complete the Expression of Interest form on the NHDS website and submit to Georgia Ashworth (gashworth@crkn.ca) by February 23, 2021.

Walter Lewis, Marine Historian & VITA Toolkit developer

In a recent Facebook post, Walter Lewis, the primary developer at OurDigitalWorld, talked about his recent home digitization activities. A maritime historian, Walter dedicates a substantial amount of time to writing and publishing articles and books on Great Lakes ships and shipping history, digitizing and making marine history available to everyone on his VITA Digital Toolkit site Maritime History of the Great Lakes.

Walter’s expertise also reflects the principles and best practices of the ODW all-in-one digitization process, including using best copies to obtain higher Optical Character Recognition (OCR) results to enhance the user experience, and to optimize public access and discovery. In his post, Walter says, “I had the opportunity this week to ‘finish’ (to the extent that any of these projects are really finished) putting online just over 20,000 pages of the Marine Review from between December 1891 and January 1908. Up to the end of 1899, these were in bound volumes which had had the covers and some of the advertising pages trimmed off…. From 1900 to 1908, I worked from individual issues, most of which were complete with their covers, but never a complete set of issues for the years. For 1900-1902, these are supplemented by the digitized microfilm issues that were already in place… Searching is dramatically better because the OCR was significantly improved, especially of the editorial columns. Further good news is that reproduction of the images is far better (remembering the process of reproduction in those years and the effects of time on paper), with three or four levels of zoom. … I would be delighted to fill in the gaps from originals in other collections, which is why these projects are never *really* done.”

Walter Lewis’ home scanning set up

Walter’s historical research and the resulting digital collection provides well over a hundred thousand rare and wide ranging resources to the marine history community. The Maritime History of the Great Lakes site also acts as a prototype and testing ground for his development work on the VITA Toolkit. Having a public, ever developing collection is the ultimate test for the features and functionality we then share with our VITA clients. As Walter likes to say: “We eat our own dog food.” The resulting collection is a showcase not only for the VITA Toolkit but a testament to Walter’s commitment to making primary materials available online and to the never ending pursuit of a better quality, more comprehensive, and accessible historical record.

Almost immediately following the Facebook post, a fellow historian responded to Walter’s request and offered up a set of bound volumes of the Marine Review to help fill the gaps in the online collection. “OK, so I’m not finished,” quipped Walter.

Daily British Whig 1902-1926 now online

OurDigitalWorld is excited to announce that the Daily British Whig from 1902-1926 is online. The Frontenac Heritage Foundation undertook the project to digitize this significant set of community news, covering the first of the World Wars, and make the papers available as part of the larger Kingston newspaper collection hosted by the Kingston Frontenac Public Library.

With the addition of these almost 90,000 pages, the online Kingston newspaper collection has doubled and now ranges more than 100 years, from 1810-1926. The Digital Kingston VITA Toolkit site at http://vitacollections.ca/digital-kingston/search allows users to search by keyword and facet results to sort or narrow them by date, publication, and more.

Daily British Whig October 9, 1909

OurDigitalWorld worked with Library and Archives Canada via the Canadian Research Knowledge Network to access and digitize the microfilm copies, and with University of Windsor to achieve high quality positional OCR processing. The newspapers are uploaded into the VITA Digital Toolkit for search and display with full text search and hit highlighted results. Frontenac Heritage Foundation member John Grenville used the new primary materials to research a local architect Ernest Beckwith, designer of the Orpheum Theatre in Kingston, and returned very specific results.

ODW, Kingston Frontenac Public Library and the Frontenac Heritage Foundation encourage genealogists, students, and other researchers’ use and exploration of this important set of newspapers. To read the full press release and for contact information regarding the project, click here.

Featured Image courtesy of Maritime History of the Great Lakes Digital collection

Documentary Heritage Communities Program call for proposals now open

DHCP Banner
Funding Your Project Ideas:
The Documentary Heritage Communities Program

The call for project proposals for 2021-2022 grants is open until January 12, 2021.

The Documentary Heritage Communities Program from Library and Archives Canada distributes $1.5 million to cultural heritage organizations across Canada to preserve, document, and increase access to our cultural and community heritage.

Eligible organizations include Libraries, Historical Societies, Genealogical Societies and Organizations, Archives, Indigenous organizations/government institutions, Professional Library and Archives Associations, and other Organizations with an archival component.

Explore the website and program guidelines here.

OurDigitalWorld has worked with many organizations on their DHCP proposals and to provide solutions for projects of all sizes, including:

We can help with multimedia or newspaper collections, index card digitization, multilingual materials and displays, and more.

Email us about your project ideas or get a free estimate to include with your proposal.