22 April 2020

225,000 pages of Tweedsmuir Community History

The following is a report from Irene Robillard, now former digitizing co-ordinator of The Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario which completed their three-year project through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program of Library and Archives Canada on 31 March. 

During this time 225,000 pages have been digitized and added to our Virtual Archives; most being our Tweedsmuir Community History Collections. These collections, with many starting in 1947, contain the history of a local community and can include farm and family histories, biographies, and photos.

Books from as far north as Cochrane in the north east and Kenora in the northwest, down to beyond London in southwestern Ontario, the Ottawa Valley in the east, and many books in between were brought to a central digitizing site and then returned. Some books were found that we were not aware of and one book was saved from destruction.

While the original documents remain locally across Ontario, the digitized documents are now together in one location, with visitors from around the world viewing them. We have fostered positive relationships with archives, museums, libraries, and historical societies throughout Ontario, with a few using our Virtual Archives to put their previously-digitized Women’s Institutes (WI) documents online. As well, some WI branches and districts have self-funded digitizing. All in all, there is about a quarter of a million pages on the platform.

There is still a lot of work to be done. About half of the documents have not yet been opened to the public as they need to be reviewed for any privacy concerns. This will happen over the next year or two. As well, there are many more books to be digitized. Already there is a waiting list for digitizing from branches, districts, and holding organizations.

Our appreciation again to Library and Archives Canada for offering their Documentary Heritage Communities Program. The WI Virtual Archives and digitization of the award-winning Tweedsmuir Collections would not have occurred without their funding.

The public can freely access the Virtual Archives at http://collections.fwio.on.ca/search . As well, all the records can be found through the portal http://search.ourontario.ca/

This was a challenging project and its success is a tribute to Irene's leadership.

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