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Library completes project to put history on Internet

By Diane Gilhula Thousands of old photographs celebrating our unique northern Ontario heritage are now only a click of a computer mouse away.
By Diane Gilhula

Thousands of old photographs celebrating our unique northern Ontario heritage are now only a click of a computer mouse away.
Jim Fortin, curator of Greater Sudbury museums

More than 12,000 photographs can now be viewed and enjoyed by visiting

?The value of the photographs is the stories they tell us about our community,? says Marte Holouka, chair of the Greater Sudbury Library board.

Holouka was speaking at the official launch Monday of a new online database of more than 12,000 historical photographs and shots of local museum artifacts.

The database tells, through pictures, stories of the fur trade, First Nations communities, the impact of the railway on the north, the forest and lumber industries, and the vast riches of the mining industry.

The Internet site also provides details about Sudbury?s ethnic communities and their contributions to our community, as well as detailing heritage buildings that are no longer there.

The project is looking to expand and fill in gaps in the local historical record, said Holouka.

?We need more photographs of the ghost towns, the First Nations communities, local agriculture, dairies, sports and records relating to the contributions of women to our community,? says Holouka.

Libraries and museums are always receiving donations from the public and this project provides an opportunity for members of the public and library to give back to the community.

Old photographs and pictures of artifacts at local museums will be of use to many people, including local students, tourists, and those interested in geneaology and local history.

Most of the credit for the cataloguing and digitizing of the old photographs, postcards and artifacts belongs to Bernard Lemieux, co-ordinator of the library?s heritage digital alliance project.

?The project is about making heritage available to the community,? says Lemieux.

His work has been funded in the past year by a government grant. Unfortunately, the grant money is about to run out.

Lemieux, a digitization technician, and two part-time assistants, were able to 1,000 donated photographs each month during the past year.

His duties also included designing and maintaining a web site for the heritage material as well as promoting public awareness of the project.

New donations of photographs and artifacts will be photographed and scanned by regular library staff, says Ron Henderson, who manages 14 local libraries, museums and citizen service centres for the City of Greater Sudbury.

The library is, however, looking for new funding and new partners in the community to continue the project.

?Increasingly, users of the public library system and museums are requesting access to digital collections of photographic material relating to the history of their communities,? says Henderson.

Another good reason to keep photographs of local heritage material at the library is it provides an additional record of aspects of local history, says Jim Fortin, curator of Greater Sudbury museums.

Fortin cites the example of the Polish Combatants Hall, which burned to the ground in the past year. More than 5,000 items of photographs, clothing, medals, icons, flags, immigration documents and passports were lost in the fire.

?We?re losing items of historical significance every day,? says Fortin.

The library is also looking to have additional copies of its scanned photograph collection off-site.

Fortin is very pleased many local families are now donating old photographs, documents and other artifacts belonging to elderly family members to local libraries and museums.

A collection of more than 300 photographs from one family was recently donated to the library.

Some of the pictures include the building of Bancroft Road, the landing of the first planes at the Sudbury Airport and building of the arch on Highway 144 near Azilda.

Citizens wishing to inquire about donating of photographs, postcards and other items are asked to phone 692-4448.


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