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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections by Michelle LaBrosse-Purcell, B.Sc., MLIS. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).
Local Histories and other Early Canadiana
Canadiana.org had its roots in The Canadian Institute of Historical Microreproductions (C.I.H.M).
Canadian Institute of Historical Microreproductions
The Canadian Institute of Historical Microreproductions (CIHM), based out of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in Ottawa, was first formed as an independent, non-profit corporation in 1978 by a group interested in locating early printed Canadian materials (books, annuals, and periodicals) from sources around the world, and preserving their content on microfiche. Initially, the undertaking was to focus on material written by Canadians, or about Canada, or with a Canadian imprint. The resulting collections of books on microfiche were then made available to libraries and archives in Canada and abroad. The goal was to build a national collection on microfiche that would be available to all libraries. More specifically, and according to the Instead of re-inventing the wheel, here is the information about the CIHM, directly from their websitea 2003 article Preserving and Providing Access to Canada's Printed Heritage: The Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions at 25 Years by Myriam McCormack, : the goals of CIHM were to:
- to make printed Canadiana already in the country more easily available to all Canadians;
- to make Canadiana not now in Canada available to Canadian libraries;
- to make rare and scarce Canadiana widely available;
- to bring together fragmented collections of Canadiana now available;
- to ensure the preservation of Canadiana in Canada and elsewhere.
So, basically, CIHM was established to find and microcopy old Canadian books, thus making them available for anyone to use. No longer did researchers need to travel to LAC or other large institution to gather information. Instead, the microfiche or film could come to them! Suddenly, a whole library of Canadian books was available to anyone who wanted to order them. A person in a rural town in Saskatchewan or in northern Yellowknife had access to the same material as a researcher in Ottawa or Toronto. This was a truly remarkable advance in the accessibility of materials!
The following is an example of what microfilmed material available from CIHM looks like.
Page of Indicateur (directory) Terrebonne
From Indicateur (directory) des villes et villages sur le chemin de fer Québec, Montréal, Ottawa and occidental et ses embranchements: donnant une description des places environnantes, des distances et des moyens de communication avec les gares de ce chemin by John A. Watkins, (Montréal?: Fauteux, 1880). Image courtesy of CIHM
Early Canadiana Online
Who wants to search online for a book, then have to search out a library for microfiche, have to use one of those dizzying microfiche readers, and end up getting a splitting migraine? Well, obviously that’s what the people at CIHM thought too, so they started digitizing their books and making them accessible online in 1997. This project became Early Canadiana Online (ECO) and was so successful that CIHM stopped microfilming in 2000. Now, Early Canadiana Online is a searchable full-text collection of primary materials documenting Canadian history from the first European contact to the early 20th century. Starting in the summer of 2002, early government publications were added to ECO on an ongoing basis. If you want to browse the collection, it is sorted into eleven categories.
So, instead of running off in search of microfiche, you can read the material you are interested in right off the Internet at ECO. The Canadiana website was listed as one of the best 101 genealogy websites by Family Tree Magazine in both 2011 and 2012. Hooray for computers and the Internet! Here follows an example of a CIHM image from the ECO website.
Page from The Canadian Parliamentary Companion 1887
From The Canadian parliamentary companion, 1887 by John Alexander Gemmill (Ottawa : J. Durie, 1887.) Image courtesy of CIHM.
Sixty-six libraries in nine countries, including thirty-six Canadian institutions, own part or all of the CIHM Early Canadiana collection. The university research libraries which subscribe to the collection can fulfil the most exhaustive research requirements of graduate and undergraduate scholars. In most cases, however, the resources are now available in digital format on the Internet, although participating libraries still maintain CIHM materials on fiche and in their catalogues. We mention the microfiche copies only as backup but you will want to search for the digital format first. For example, the University of Alberta Libraries Internet catalogue lists 23,624 items, each with a digital image, when CIHM is entered as the search term. Although these include categories such as Canadian juvenile novels, (e.g., L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables) they also include many genealogy books, such as Alberta Homestead Records 1870-1940 that will be of interest to those of us whose ancestors settled Alberta.
Then, in 2008, CIHM merged with AlouetteCanada which was founded by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries in 2006 with the goal of developing a plan to place Canada’s cultural heritage, documents and artefacts online. The resulting organization was called Canadiana.org. It reconfirmed a commitment to:
- an ongoing program to digitize Canada's historical documents
- preservation of Canadian heritage through the digitization
- provide easy, online, broadest-possible access to the documents
Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses Canadian Local Histories and Special Collections offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about these courses or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at email@example.com
We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.
- This page was last modified on 14 October 2014, at 16:41.
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