Searching Alberta’s history through the Internet is becoming more efficient thanks to an archival website called Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
Prairie history buffs may already know about the University of Alberta Libraries’ (AUL) digital archive, which provides detailed history including more than 16,000 images, but families looking to find more about their lineage can also access the website.
Geoff Harder, associate university librarian with UAL says the digitization of historical books and photos is provided as a resource to tell the history of the provinces on the world stage.
“It just makes sense to digitize as much material as we possibly can,” said Harder.
The archives are quite detailed and each page of a book scanned is also given optical character recognition (OCR) to allow someone to copy and paste specific text. The process is quite labour intensive and expensive, said Harder but information, or metadata on each file makes it easier to search and classify data.
“We want to do it once and we want to do it at a very high quality,” said Harder.
Most recently the UAL added the western Canadian grain elevator lists to the website, which is free for anyone to use. Harder says they have many genealogists access to the site.
Searching an item can be as detailed as a person wants it to be and once they find a document they can even search within it to find what they want. Also available to search are newspapers, bibliographies, images and maps and Harder says some people have spent hours just looking through the history of the prairie provinces.
He says they are scanning 10s of thousands of pages a month into the website. “The end product is worth it if you do it well once.”
“All of that material would be left off in the shadows and corners,” he added.
He says there are many layers of search capabilities that enable a user to enter specific keywords, titles, author publication years or specific subjects.
“To offer those materials to the world is just so important to us,” said Harder.
Check out the library at http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/