UPEI launches online archive

Ryan Ross rross@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 19, 2011

It just got easier for history buffs to dig up P.E.I.’s past thanks to a new archive from UPEI.

On Monday the university held its official unveiling of IslandArchives.ca where anyone can view digitized versions of P.E.I. maps, books, newspapers, photos and even taped interviews to learn about Island history.

UPEI librarian Mark Leggott said library collections typically represent a region’s cultural heritage and the UPEI library has been aggressive in trying to digitize its archives.

“Our goal is to digitize all of the cultural print heritage of Prince Edward Island,” he said.

To do that the university bought a scanner Leggott has dubbed “scan of Green Gables” that can make electronic copies of books in the library’s holdings and add them to the digitized records on IslandArchives.ca.

Gone are the days of manually flipping pages because the new machine turns them with a puff of air and passes the robotic scanner over the pages before moving on to the next at a steady pace.

A process that used to take about two hours now takes about 10 minutes to scan each book, depending on its length and so far 131 have been added to the Island Lives section of the archive.

The website also features about 700 maps from P.E.I. on its Island Imagined section and more than 500 recordings of interviews on Island Voices.

The university expects to have a large portion of the Island’s print heritage digitized within five years.

Leggott said he thinks the response from the community has been good because people love history when it’s local and they recognize the names or places.

“Maybe the Island is maybe a tiny bit special in the sense that they’re particularly interested in the history of their own place and their own people,” he said.

One of those people who was interested enough to make a monetary donation to the project was retired Bishop Faber MacDonald who said he thinks there is something good socially about the type of project the university is undertaking.

“I think it’s loaded with possibilities,” he said.

MacDonald said his interest relates to research into Celtic music, which his donation will help fund, and he knows there is an interest in it among Islanders.

“There’s a hunger and it’s being fed and this is going to feed it and deepen the hunger.”

For UPEI president Wade MacLauchlan, he said the project is a great example of collaboration and using new ways to make work that has been done for generations available to more people.

He also said there aren’t many projects like it in Canada.

“I think it’s a great example of how we can lead the way, where we draw on our own sense of place and the advantage of scale and the leadership and investments to really take something to the world.”


University Librarian Mark Leggott, and Bishop Faber MacDonald, check out some of the equipment used in the digitizing process at the Robertson Library at U.P.E.I. IslandArchives.ca was launched Monday.

©Guardian photo by Ryan Ross