The pending digitization of the Peninsula News Review will allow users to search the paper by key words through a digital database, including the very edition of the paper published in Dec. 1912 when it opened under the name of Sidney and Islands Review (Black Press Media File).

The pending digitization of the Peninsula News Review will allow users to search the paper by key words through a digital database, including the very edition of the paper published in Dec. 1912 when it opened under the name of Sidney and Islands Review (Black Press Media File).

Digitization of Peninsula News Review by Sidney Museum and Archives preserves historical legacy

Searchable database will ease research and preserve integrity of records

Historians, educators, journalists, and members of the public will soon be able to access a major historical source about life on the Saanich Peninsula.

Alyssa Gerwing, assistant director of the Sidney Museum and Archives, said the pending digitization of the Peninsula News Review will help interested parties gain access to unique materials that document the agricultural, cultural, economic, historical, political and social history of the Saanich Peninsula and Gulf Islands.

The existing collection includes increasingly delicate physical copies of the newspaper from its start in 1912 to 2018, as well as archival copies on 35mm microfilm for years of 1912 to 2002. These microfilms — some 46 rolls, each 100 feet long — are for the moment only accessible through a solitary, out-dated microfilm reader, or Gerwing described it, “a giant dinosaur of a machine,” available by appointment only.

In other words, access to this archival resource remains limited, and increasingly threatened by time, as the microfilm reader – as well as the original material – ages and becomes more brittle.

Digitizing the microfilms would not only preserve their archival integrity, but also make them available to the public for free.

READ ALSO: One million bricks: Lego Exhibition in Sidney bigger, better than ever

The BC History Digitization Program is currently considered a grant application from the Sidney Museum and Archives to digitize the microfilms with an answer expected some time this month, said Gerwing.

The musuem has also sent a roll of microfilm to the Vancouver-based scanning firm that will digitize the microfilms for testing. “We just got results back and it looks like we are going to have some pretty crisp images,” she said.

To underscore the significance of the project, Gerwing said it will go ahead regardless of whether the grant application succeeds.

“Even if we don’t end up getting the grant, we will be going out into the community, and trying to fund this project anyway, just because we think it is so important,” she said. “Everybody I talked to is so excited.”

For now, the museum is seeking sponsors to raise $10,000 for the matching funds required by the granting agency. An unnamed private individual has already donated $1,000 towards the project. Funds would need to be confirmed by April 15 and only collected in May if the grant application is successful.

Gerwing said it will take the hired professional company most of the summer to scan the mircofilms. The company will also perform a process called optical character recognition, the conversion of typed or printed text into machine-coded text that will eventually allow future users to search the scanned collection by key words, with a local tech company creating and linking the necessary database to the museum’s website.

“So what we are trying to do is remove that barrier of having only one microfilm reader and put that information out there, so people can access local history, the history of North Saanich and Sidney, the Saanich Peninsula and the Gulf Islands,” said Gerwing.

“This process will show us where the gaps are, and that way we can go to the museum community, the library community, and see if anyone can back-fill those things,” she added later.

While it is not clear how many communities are digitizing their respective local newspapers, the number is rising.

“It is becoming more and more common and we want to make sure that we are not left behind,” said Gerwing, who has had experience digitizing records, while attending university. While working in Prince George, Gerwing also appreciated the ease of using a search-able database rather than scrolling and spooling miles of microfilm.

“It was really an invaluable tool to have,” she said.

This current digitization project is part of a larger plan to make as much of the newspaper available as possible. If everything goes according to plan, this current and arguably largest step, will be ready for use by early 2021 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Sidney Museum and Archives.

“So it is a really nice way for Black Press, the Peninsula News Review, and the museum to celebrate both histories,” she said.


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The application proposing to rezone Western Speedway was passed by Langford’s planning, zoning and affordable housing committee Feb 8. A petition has since been started by residents of Trudie Terrace, hoping to stop the proposed residential portion of the development plan. (CBRE Victoria)
Petition opposing Western Speedway development proposal gains steam

Save Thetis Heights Neighborhood petition aims to stop extension of Trudie Terrace

The City of Victoria filed a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. March 2 to have it clarify whether, under the Trustee Act, Beacon Hill Park can be used for temporary sheltering. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria asks court to clarify if Beacon Hill Park can be used for sheltering

City of Victoria filed petition to Supreme Court of B.C. March 2

Activists from the Fairy Creek Blockades hold the injunction application notice which was submitted by logging company Teal Jones to the B.C. Supreme Court. The application, which asks to have blockaders removed from the sites that stop access to cut blocks, is set to be heard on March 4. (Photo contributed/Joshua Wright)
Activists hunker down to protect Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew from logging

Forest company Teal Cedar applies for injunction to remove seven-month-old blockades

Boma Brown won the Emerging Leader Award for her work founding the Support Network for Indigenous Women and Women of Colour. (Courtesy of Boma Brown)
Victoria SNIWWOC founder up for national women’s award for volunteer efforts

Victoria’s Boma Brown is a semi-finalist in the running for the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth award

Older rental apartments are prime candidates for renovations, and could result in lost affordable housing stock. (Zoë Ducklow photo)
B.C.’s renoviction overhaul a good start, but won’t preserve affordable stock, lawyer says

And still no protection for people who can’t pay rent due to COVID-19

(Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
B.C. WHL teams to hit the ice with Kelowna, Kamloops hub cities

Kelowna, Kamloops centres chosen to host B.C. WHL teams for 24-game regular season

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (File photo)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

(File photo)
RCMP arrest man after report of gun-toting threat-maker near Parksville schools

43-year-old man taken into custody; students at nearby schools were asked to stay inside

The machines are akin to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify its unique vein pattern. (CANADIAN PRESS)
Feds dole out $3.5M for ‘vending machines’ to dispense safer opioids in B.C.

The machines are located in four cities across Canada, including Vancouver and Victoria

Kelowna’s lakefront visitor centre is one of 130 around the province. Tourism businesses have been hardest hit by COVID-19 restrictions on travel. (Destination B.C.)
Tourism, small business getting COVID-19 help, B.C. minister says

$300M grant program has delivered $50 million so far

The incident happened in downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Castlegar teen recounts stabbing after stranger breaks into grandmother’s house

The unnamed teen survived a terrifying attack Feb. 21

Most Read