Websurfing through the Archives
Posted by Mary Chaktsiris
These days, everything is going digital – even the archive.
National, provincial and municipal archives and libraries present wonderfully digitized sources, and many of the most interesting sites are community based. Building on Cynthia’s post about the “nationality” of formal archival collection, community driven projects can provide glimpses into how historical events are being remembered, interpreted and “archived” outside of institutions. Forgive me if I indulge my own interest (research and otherwise) in the Great War; these are a sampling of the sites I find myself getting lost in and distracted by.
These are just a limited few of archive and community-based sites I’ve come across in the course of my research that tell stories – and present evidence – about the past. There are many more; care to share your favourite?
1. For King and Country: A project to transcribe the war memorials in Toronto schools
Most of us can relate with passing by a statue in a park or under a memorial arch engraved with the names of those who volunteered for active service during the World Wars. But what about in your school? This project, initiated by the Ontario Genealogical Society, records war memorials – including books of remembrance, bronze plaques, sculptures etc – inTorontoschools.
2. Remembering Toronto’s fallen from World War II
This Project turned 12 boxes of typed index cards at the City of Toronto Archives into an interactive map plotting the address of World War Two causalities onto a map ofToronto. As
Patrick Cain explains:
The map is an exercise in recovered local memory. For example, it must have been well known in the neighbourhood west of Queen St.and Spadina Ave.that five local men had died at Dieppe but that experience is hard to reconstruct now except through this kind of project. One was from Cameron St., one from Vanauley St.and three from Augusta St., numbers 20, 26 and 44.
3. Soldiers of the First World War – CEF
Enter a surname and you’re off – the digitized First World War attestation papers at Library and Archives Canada will reveal the recruitment papers of soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force with that last name. There’s something intensely personal (perhaps even voyeuristic) about looking at these papers. They describe eye colour, hair colour, weight, height, employment, marital status, place of recruitment – and more. So enter in a surname or regimental number, and see what – or who – comes up.