The Thompson Nicola Regional District Library system is looking for support to digitize the area’s newspapers in order to make the information searchable for future generations.
Marc Saunders, Director of Libraries for the TNRD was at Ashcroft’s Council meeting Monday night asking for their support.
“This is the thing,” Saunders told them, “500-600 years from now, if we handle the data properly, our great great great great grandchildren are going to be using this. That floats my boat.”
The multi-year project plans to digitize newspapers from nine communities within the TNRD, including Ashcroft, and turn the information on the pages into a searchable database.
To do that means copying each page as a high resolution image. He said the work would eventually contain over million images – probably more than a million and a half.
“Some people would say this is overly ambitious,” said Saunders. “I believe in shooting for the stars and if you land on the moon, at least you’ve made it that far.”
The Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal, he said, was identified as one of the papers with tremendous historical significance, being the oldest newspaper in the region, and will be a part of the project from the start. Issues of The Journal date back to 1895 and the bound copies are housed in the Ashcroft Museum.
The project will include current newspapers, but also papers that are no longer publishing such as the Cache Creek Pioneer, Kamloops Wawa, Copper Tailings and Logan Lake Leader, the Chase Tribune and the Merritonian.
Saunders had three requests for Council: 1. assistance with research as needed from the Museum; 2. assistance with fundraising by identifying companies willing to assist with the project; and 3. the use of one full set of The Journal for copying.
Council thanked him for his presentation and asked for time to study the ramifications of his request.
“Some people ask why not let the newspapers take care of it?” said Saunders, who replied that the history recorded in the newspapers was a public resources. He said the reasons were many, but he gave them a few “really obvious reasons” that included: preserving local history, increasing access, improving service, creating awareness about what we have unique in TNRD, creating an increased presence on the internet for the communities involved, engaging our communities and especially the students who can use the information for class assignments, and telling the stories of our communities to the world.
Coun. Helen Kormendy recounted that her grandfather fought in World War I, and Museum curator Kathy Paulos found out that his troop passed through Ashcroft in 1915 by looking through old issues of The Journal. She said the article is still stuck to her fridge.
“But, how can we be sure the technology will be there in 600 years?” she asked.
Saunders said the software would change over the years, but the high resolution images would remain the same and be migrated to the new platforms as they developed, and the project would be using the latest methods of data preservation
Besides being searchable, the information would also be hosted on a neutral website that reflected the donations from different sources. It should be accessible through a variety of different websites, he added.
He said he was expecting some of the material to be available for public use by the Fall of this year.