Brock leads War of 1812 digitization project in Niagara

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Brock leads War of 1812 digitization project in Niagara

Published on October 14 2009

As the War of 1812 bicentennial approaches, Brock is teaming up with local heritage and educational organizations to digitize significant artefacts and records related to the era and make them available online.

Brock’s Special Collections and Archives in the James A. Gibson Library applied for funding to oversee the project in collaboration with seven other cultural groups from Niagara and Ontario in October 2008. In June 2009, the University received financial support of more than $55,000 from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy to ensure the success of this project.

The total value of the project is more $100,000 including the Canadian Heritage funding and in-kind contributions of the other partners. The project is set to launch in March 2010.

“Since Niagara was a major theatre of war during this conflict, we are extremely pleased to be able to play a lead role in this collaborative initiative,” says David Sharron, Head, Special Collections and Archives, Brock University.

As lead applicant for the 1812 Online Digitization Project, Brock will also host the completed website at the University.

“Our goal is to work with our local partners on projects that will benefit their respective organizations and communities, while showcasing the rich history of our region as a whole,” says Sharron. “As we approach 2012, there is going to be a heightened interest in the material culture from this era. The digitization of these nearly two-hundred-year-old records and objects will allow for greater access to these resources and ensure the long-term preservation of these historical treasures.”

With the funds, Brock has hired two digitization assistants, Sarah Maloney (Port Colborne, Ont.) and Michelle Nicholls (St. Catharines, Ont.), who will be responsible for digitizing the materials at the University and other museums in the region and uploading the information and images to the website. There is also a Brock student, Jason Gagnon (St. Catharines, Ont.) hired to help create the website for the project in early 2010.

"We can’t wait to have our extensive 1812 collection online and available for the public to access as an invaluable research and educational tool,” says Clark Bernat, Director/Curator, Niagara Historical Society Museum. “This project will allow us to show the world what wonderful material has been collected by the Society during the past 100 years."

Under the direction of the Social Science Curriculum Consultant, the District School Board of Niagara has provided a teacher to develop educational resources using the digitized collection to teach students about this pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

The 1812 Online Digitization Project, as defined in Brock’s application, will broadly examine the time period as a whole in an effort to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the daily social, economic and political lives of the inhabitants of Upper Canada as well as the details of the war itself. Items such as contemporary newspapers, business ledgers, diaries, clothing and commercial products will be available for study along with articles from the war.

This open approach is intended to accommodate other repositories that may wish to participate in the project in the future. It has also provided the opportunity for Our Ontario, a service of Knowledge Ontario, to become a key partner in this endeavor.

Our Ontario develops leading-edge technologies designed to make Ontario digital content discoverable by a global audience. Their online discovery portal is freely available to any heritage and cultural organization wishing to contribute. Our Ontario is providing the software for metadata and searching for the 1812 website.

"We are delighted to be partnering with Brock University and other Niagara area organizations to showcase the War of 1812 project,” says Loren Fantin, Project Manager, Our Ontario. “It is exciting to be involved in a project that is going to make amazing historical content relevant and easily accessible to today's web generation."

Partners involved in the project include: the Department of Canadian Heritage; Brock University, Special Collections and Archives, James A. Gibson Library; the Niagara Historical Society and Museum; Niagara Falls Museums, which includes the Lundy's Lane Historical Museum; the Port Colborne Historical and Marine Museum; the Grimsby Museum; the Jordan Historical Museum; Our Ontario; and the District School Board of Niagara.

This project was made possible with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy.

For more information, contact David Sharron, Head, Special Collections and Archives, James A. Gibson Library, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x3264;