Sunday, 30 March 2008

Notes from Gene-O-Rama

At Friday evening and Saturday's Gene-O-Rama event, at the former Nepean City Hall, I attended only one of the presentations. It was more an opportunity to talk to old friends and new acquaintances.

One nice addition to the marketplace this year was an Archives of Ontario display. It was their first appearance at this event, not overdue given that two-thirds of their clients are interested in genealogy, family and local history. Being newcomers they didn't have the choicest location but seemed to attract considerable attention running out of hard copy's of several information sheets. I had a good conversation with Sean Smith, an AO Senior Reference Archivist, advocating for a more aggressive digitization initiative, including for provincial newspapers, and a more client centred approach, especially regarding their clients who are too far from Toronto to visit often.

Don Pounder, a veteran researcher and reader of this blog, pointed out that the 19th Century British Library Newspapers database search defaults to a proximity search with a maximum four word separation. If you put AND between two terms the search is for both terms appearing anywhere in the article. Several other people commented on this database's OCR quality which they found a bit variable, sometimes surprisingly good for poor quality originals. My only experience with it impressed me positively. Can Gale can find a way to make this database affordable to the hobby genealogist?

Bruce Elliott gave me a copy of a course description and objectives sheet for a seminar course he will be running from September 2008 to March 2009 on "Gravestones and Cemeteries: Cultures of Death and Memorialization" at Carleton University. The sheet mentions public lectures as one of the results, something I look forward to hearing.

Bruce was concerned about Ottawa Branch selling off back issues of other society journals. We discussed moves to digitize back issues so making them more widely available but he is concerned about assured access. Technology may be the salvation by bringing digitization into searchable pdf within the capability and budget of smaller societies and permitting multiple electronic copies to be kept at diverse sites. Derek Hopkins of the Quebec Family History Society demonstrated a trial he has undertaken. If rights issues can be resolved monetizing, or bartering, a society archive of its own publications could be a good service for members and the community.

Ottawa Branch deserves kudos for organizing this event, the 25th edition of Gene-O-Rama.

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