OurDigitalWorld Newsletter September 2023

On the importance of our community newspapers

Over the years, ODW has been motivated to support grassroots organizations preserve and share their community history and local newspapers. Why? Because these are the stories of our neighbours, near and far; because they help us understand our own and each other’s communities and bind us as a society; because they build a valuable web of information about our past and our present. We are therefore disheartened at the announcement of severe cuts to community newspaper paper publications across Ontario, some that have been running for nearly 200 years (Small-town community papers take big hit after Metroland files for bankruptcy), and for the staff and journalists behind those publications who are affected by the changes. This is a tremendous blow, isolating individuals without access to the internet and further distancing people from their community through homogenized “news” reported from centralized, mainly urban, sources.

Reflecting on these recent developments, ODW wants to thank the organizations who steward their local newspaper collections and provide access to the stories, personalities and issues that reflect the fabric of our communities. The Ontario LAM Newspapers Working Group is also be convening about this announcement. Please get in touch about their work, and/or to share any news or concerns you may have about your community newspaper by writing to: CommunityNewspapersON@gmail.com

ODW Projects

New life for old database records

13,000 index records have been meticulously cleaned up and migrated to be included in the collections from Waterloo Public Library. These index records highlight contents from magazines, newspapers, city directories and vertical files in the physical Local History collection, allowing users to identify which items to access and review. The initial labour involved in creating this depth of indexing is substantial, so making them available online honours that work and provides enhanced access for the public. Explore the collection

Hyper-local news has historical clout

The South Marysburgh Mirror is an independent newsletter that began publishing in 1990 in the southernmost part of Loyalist-settled Prince Edward County, Ontario. The Mirror covers annual events like the still-running agricultural Milford Fall Fair and the New Year’s Levee, and includes monthly updates from the local Women’s Institute, churches, and transcriptions of local rural diaries. These hyper-local stories fill many gaps in the larger publications in the area like the Picton Gazette and Belleville Intelligencer, offering decades of insight into a tightly knit, rural community. Explore the collection

Historical Society achieves long-term goal

The Lake Scugog Historical Society, a volunteer-run, not for profit organization, achieved a significant milestone by finishing their newspaper digitization project. The result is more than 150 years of coverage from local newspaper collections that were preserved on paper, microfilm, microfiche and born-digital PDF. The collection includes early dailies like the Ontario Observer and Port Perry Star and the more recent Scugog Citizen weekly and Focus on Scugog monthly magazine. Thanks to their perseverance, this adds breadth to the online and historical coverage available for the central Durham, Ontario region. (Photo from The History of Port Perry’s Newspapers). Explore the collection

New VITA Digital Collections

Archived Oxford: A view into Oxford County’s past

A new project from Oxford County Archives, described as starting with “260 individual postcards [that] feature images of local streets, scenery, and buildings in Oxford County, along with some promotional material from historical businesses. We will be expanding to include … just over 3,000 photographs … which again, include locations and buildings throughout Oxford County, events, people, businesses, etc.” Explore the collection

Great Lakes Vessels database sails again

The Wisconsin Maritime Museum has migrated the Gerald C. Metzler Great Lakes Vessel Database into ODW’s unique Vessels metadata templates. These historical records detail vessel dimensions, classification, builder and shipmaster names, as well as changes over time. Much like other vital statistics, the vessel records capture the places of a ship’s birth, travel, and, if sunk, final location – a real boon for wreck divers. This collection can be searched independently but will also add more than 13,000 detailed vessel records to the fast growing Great Lakes History search site. Explore the collection

Coming Soon

Oshawa Newspapers

Oshawa Public Library is adding later years of the Oshawa Times and Daily Times-Gazette to their already extensive newspaper collection. The newspapers will be scanned from microfilm and made full text searchable, enhancing access to the Oshawa collection as well as the Durham Newspapers regional site. Explore the collection

Dryden Observer

Covering life in Northern Ontario for more than a century, the Dryden Observer includes “significant moments in Dryden’s development such as the building of the Dryden Public High School, advertisements from local businesses, and records of life from citizens, from obituaries to personal letters to the editor.” Dryden Museum

Join us at the 2024 Ontario Library Association annual Super Conference in Toronto, Ontario, January 24-27, 2024. Visit our booth to meet the team, catch up on our latest projects, learn more about us and find out how we can help with your digitization projects.

Header photo credit: Rosseau Historical Society “Highway 632, Bridge over Shadow River – 2 – RV0041

ODW Quarterly June 2023

Our recent Quarterly newsletter is now available!

Find out what we’ve been up to and explore these highlights:

  • Digitizing Newspapers with ODW: Addressing Copyright & Public Access
  • Interactive 3D Shipwrecks
  • Celebrating National Indigenous History Month
  • Introducing the Great Lakes History search site
  • VITA Toolkit: New Features & Functionality
  • Welcome Brantford Digital Archives
  • Looking forward: Oshawa and Dryden Newspapers

Read more…

Celebrating Black History Month – every month

This month we’re highlighting collections that take a deep dive into the Black experience. For Black History Month on social media, we’ve showcased some significant resources in VITA Collections for understanding and exploring Black history in Ontario and beyond.

As always, we recommend reviewing and searching the Abolitionist Newspaper collections. Past blog posts have featured these papers in articles like Fugitive Voices: Black-run periodicals in Abolition-era Canada and news about the re-scanning of the Voice of the Fugitive newspaper in Announcing the Abolitionists Collection.

South Western Ontario was a major crossing point for fugitive slaves and freemen coming from the United States. To learn more about this aspect of Chatham Kent and area, check out the wonderful exhibit “Let us march on until Victory is won,” from Chatham Kent Museum https://vitacollections.ca/ckmuseums/620/exhibit.

Family history collections often end up at local archives and public libraries, one is the Richard Bell Family Fonds at Brock University includes 85 photographs, tintypes and documents spanning c.1850 to 1950. The extended family lived in London and St. Catharines and the collection includes birth, death and marriage certificates, images from family bibles, snapshots from family day trips, and more. https://images.ourontario.ca/Brock/2817492/gallery

Community collections often highlight significant citizens. We want to broadcast some of the stories we’ve found from our VITA client collections. For example: Bob Turner, previously a catcher for the Chicago White Sox, Turner became Colborne’s first Recreational Director https://vitacollections.ca/cramahelibrary/355/exhibit.

Halton Region boasts the remarkable Veteran Henry Thomas Shepherd, who fought in both World Wars and whose story is shared in a virtual exhibit created by Halton Hills Public Library https://vitacollections.ca/HaltonHillsImages/558/exhibit.

And read on about Dr. Saint-Firmin Monestime. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dr. Monestime moved from Haiti to open a practice in Timmins, but a chance encounter in a restaurant convinced him to put down roots in Mattawa instead, a Northern Ontario town where he would later became the first Black mayor in Canada: https://vitacollections.ca/multiculturalontario/476/exhibit/17.

Black History in Canada includes advocacy and civil action for human rights here and around the world. The Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) houses resources for researchers and scholars and features a fascinating Black Voices collection on their site https://vitacollections.ca/cerlacresourcecentre/search.

Researchers of all kinds use the collections to find history and illustrations for material of all kinds. Recently, a researcher contacted us with thanks for the transcripts of Schooner Days for background material about Caymanian Captain Culrose McLaughlin (1896-1992) and two-time Canada’s Cup winner Commodore Aemilius Jarvis (1860-1940) for her article Black Yachting History.

We’re privileged to be able to promote and share these collections online, resources that can help us celebrate Black History every month. If you have a story or collection you want highlighted, contact us at info@ourdigitalworld.org.

Banner image “Henry and Susanna Maude Shepherd Family” courtesy of Halton Hills Public Library.

OurDigitalWorld Newsletter December 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, our latest Quarterly newsletter offers some wonderful news and updates on important work:

  • Celebrating 10 years of OurDigitalWorld
  • 90 Years after the Holodomor
  • Projects
    • Enacting Reconciliation
    • Ensuring Accessibility
    • OurOntario.ca upcoming upgrades
  • Digital Collection Highlights
    • Making news in the Durham Region
    • Explore the Greater Chicago Area
  • Register now for OLA Super Conference 2023

Read more here

Ensuring Accessible Digital Collection Sites

This is a guest post by Olivia Najdovski, student at University of Toronto iSchool.

Desktop with green arrow on screen, surrounded by ear icon, eye icon, brain icon, and hand icon

One in five Canadians have a disability. As such, it is critical to consider the accessibility of websites to ensure that they are accessible to all. From October to December, I worked with OurDigitalWorld to conduct an accessibility audit of the VITA Digital Collections Toolkit base site code. The goal of this project was to achieve accessibility for sites as per the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG) guidelines. This process involved using WebAIM’s WAVE Browser Extension in addition to manual reviews to flag accessibility issues on the Toolkit sites, using both Safari and Chrome browsers. 

More specifically, the manual review involved combing through each individual webpage to pinpoint issues relating to keyboard accessibility and screen-reader compatibility. Some accessibility functionality is built in to the toolkit, like creating alt text for images from their titles, but this review process revealed some key discoveries that, with the web development talents of the ODW team, we were able to resolve. 

One issue we resolved across the Toolkit sites was a lack of labelling on buttons. When buttons or links are not accurately labelled, screen readers cannot pick up on what the purpose of that button or link is. Therefore, screen reader users cannot make use of the button, because the screen reader cannot relay what the button does. To remedy this, we ensured that buttons and links were accurately labelled across the toolkit sites, significantly improving the accessibility of the sites for screen reader users.

WAVE add-on testing a VITA Toolkit site
Sample application of the WAVE add-on during testing of a VITA Toolkit site

The great news is that incorporating small changes like labelling buttons and including additional informative alt text for images improved the accessibility and inclusivity of the Toolkit websites. Accessibility is an ongoing process, however, and can be compromised with any client-based content or site changes over time. This is a good step forward in keeping with ODW’s mandate of providing full and inclusive public access to community digital collections.

Some resources for WCAG review:

What’s new with VITA 6.4

VITA Digital Collections Toolkit was upgraded in September 2022, making it easier for user to provide better attribution and search results. This version upgrade means users can automatically assign copyright labels, process text items with OCR and hit highlighting, and share improved display for linked index records and more…

Exciting new changes include:

  • digital files uploaded as category “page” can automatically generate OCR and apply hit highlighting to search results – great for newspaper issues, documents, even headstone photos!
  • copyright holder statements can be automatically applied to serial publications 95 years old or younger (here’s how)
  • index records with links to digital pages will now display the linked page image in the details panel instead of the sidebar
  • personal information and cookies policy statements are now available for both VITA users and the public
  • apply “section” fields for non-newspaper pages e.g. Chapter headings
  • updated “help” for on-screen support (and correlating MAP updates)

Want to stay up to date with VITA Toolkit news? Use the subscription form on the home page of the VITA Help site.

What’s new with VITA 6.3

In April 2022, the VITA Digital Collections Toolkit was upgraded to version 6.3. This release includes a balance of public engagement features and back-end management options. Inspired by feedback from the user community on both sides of the collections, VITA 6.3 focuses on: increasing linked discovery (like indexing non-Newspaper volumes); better search options (like search within Publication and on/off filters for results sets); expanding and scoping VITA collection audiences (with OAI-PMH integrations and IP restricted sites, respectively); and some fun stuff like interactive jigsaw puzzles and enhanced pan-zoom viewing. We hope you will explore the collections to see some of the changes!

Improved & Engaging Public Site options

  • Contribute Audio/Video/Document files to eligible accounts
  • Search within a Publication (e.g. Home & Country Newsletters) allows your results to stay focused on a single volume or newspaper publication
  • Jigsaw puzzles for a different way to interact with historical images
  • Optional indexing for non-newspaper volumes like church or cemetery records
  • Results filters for instant scoping and backing up through results sets
  • Browser-activated audio/video player
  • IIIF viewer for pan-zoom-rotate view of all Full, Detail and Reverse images (e.g. this postcard)
Jigsaw Puzzles

New Audience Options: Integrations and Scoped sites

  • OAI-PMH feature for extending discovery in other spaces like the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
  • IP limited sites for collections with access restrictions (talk to us about this option)

For a full description of all VITA 6.3 upgrades for the public and VITA users, see our latest VITA Partner newsletter