The MHSO has led, or been a partner in, a number of significant initiatives directed toward digitizing primary source materials and making them available online. Through its participation in these initiatives, the Society is preserving, and improving access to, irreplaceable records that are central to understanding the development of 20th-century Ontario.
Discovering Multicultural Canada Archive
The MHSO is undertaking a multi-year initiative, Strangers No More: Immigrant History and Multicultural Canada, which will dramatically improve the management of, and global access to, its extensive primary source collections through the creation of an online digital archive. The digital archive, Discovering Multicultural Canada, will include digitized oral history interviews, historical photographs, and ethnic newspapers. These resources will be augmented by reference/contextual materials such as the Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples and by innovative educational programming. Discovering Multicultural Canada will also incorporate features which will encourage users of the archive to contribute content and tell their own stories through the website. These features will ensure that the archive becomes a living and evolving resource.
The MHSO has made significant progress in developing content for Discovering Multicultural Canada. As of November 2017, over 1,925 oral history interviews had been digitized for inclusion in the archive. Approximately 45 ethnocultural communities are represented among these interviews. All of the Austrian, Carpatho-Rusyn, Danish, Filipino, First Nations/Indigenous Peoples, Franco-Ontarian, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Vietnamese interviews in the Society’s core oral history collection have been digitized. To enhance the interviews and to make them more accessible to users of the archive, the MHSO has produced substantial explanatory and contextual materials – since the initiative began, 843 interview transcripts have been completed, 643 of which have been edited and 95 annotated; 454 interviews have been indexed using a special Terms for Indexing tool developed by the Society; and 201 biographical notes on narrators (i.e., interviewees) have been prepared. In addition to the interviews, 6,671 photographs from the MHSO’s historical photographs collection and over 650,000 pages of newspapers from its ethnic newspapers collection have been digitized.
Progress has also been made in terms of the technology. In 2016, the MHSO secured funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Cultural Investment Fund – Strategic Initiatives) to help address the costs involved in producing a customized infrastructure for the digital archive. The infrastructure will host the Society’s archive and, eventually over time, multiple additional digital archives created by ethnocultural organizations/facilities with archival holdings. The MHSO’s first two collaborators are the Canadian Macedonian Historical Society and the Canadian Polish Research Institute. The three partners are overseeing the infrastructure design/development work, and they will provide the initial archival content.
The MHSO was a pivotal member of the consortium of university libraries and community organizations, led by Simon Fraser University, which created the Multicultural Canada website. The Multicultural Canada project digitized and made available online various archival materials – newspapers, interviews, photographs, textual records, and other resources – housed, and thus not readily accessible, in archives and special collections. The Society contributed oral history interviews from its Hungarian, Italian, and Vietnamese collections. It also contributed the majority of the ethic newspapers in the site – for example, the Chinese Canadian Community News (Chinese), L’Ami du Peuple (French), Berliner Journal (German), Kanadai Magyar Munkas (Hungarian), Tairiku Jiho (Japanese), Canadian Jewish Review (Jewish), El Popular (Latin American), Crescent (Pakistani), and Zhyttia i Slovo (Ukrainian). In addition, the MHSO made its landmark reference work, Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples, available until 2015, and it contributed virtually all of the 85 publications included in Multicultural Canada.
Connecting Canadians: Canada’s Multicultural Newspapers
The MHSO, Simon Fraser University, and the Galileo Educational Network partnered with Athabasca University in the Connecting Canadians: Canada’s Multicultural Newspapers digitization project. Connecting Canadians provides an opportunity for individuals to connect with their heritage by exploring ethnic newspapers and engaging in learning activities online. The collection in the website includes Croatian, Estonian, Finnish, Hungarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Serbian, Serbo-Croatian, and Ukrainian newspapers. The MHSO contributed Estonian (Meie Elu, Vaba Eestlane), Finnish (Canadan Uutiset, Liekki, and Vapaus), Latvian (Brivais Latvietis), and Lithuanian (Liaudies Balsas) newspapers from its ethnic newspapers collection.