Avid history buffs in Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry have a reason to rejoice starting on Monday morning — the long-awaited SDG newspaper online archive was officially launched.
The brainchild of local MP Eric Duncan, the online newspaper collection — which can be accessed at archive.sdgcounties.ca — contains a total of 210,566 scanned pages.
Each allows for the search of keywords and feature issues not only from newspapers still in publication, such as the Chesterville Record, the Morrisburg Leader. and the Glengarry News among others, but also from publications such as the Morrisburg Courier, Mountain Herald, and St. Lawrence News, which no longer publish.
In addition to that, the archive also contains over 2,000 photos of the Lost Villages.
The initiative, which still needs to scan from about 35,000 to 50,000 more pages and has used the assistance of several volunteers from a handful of local archives, is in its third year.
“It is very exciting to finally launch the online archives website after years of work,” said Duncan. “The support for the project from the various newspaper ownership teams, local historical archives and organizations, and from county council was fantastic. This material is a gift to researchers, and the residents of SDG who now have an online gateway to their history.”
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United Counties of SDG elected officials were on hand for the launch and with good reasons. Not only will the tool help assist them in their day-to-day operations according to Duncan, it was also funded with the help from SDG. In all, council allocated $181,132 to the project as part of its 2019 and 2020 budgets.
“County council believed in this project from the outset,” said Warden Frank Prevost. “It is said that newspaper reports can be considered the first rough draft of history. We are now preserving this history online for generations to come.”
Duncan told officials that he hopes to make one final financial request to council in order to complete the project in the near future.
It wasn’t just local archives, organizations and newspaper owners that assisted with the initiative however. Residents from all walks of life have been helping gather some of the missing issues.
“We’ve had people donate decades’ worth of newspapers and we’ve had some donate a year here and a year there,” said Duncan. “I’m very proud of how this has turned out. I think that it will be very subscribed to by the public.”
The work that has been undertaken by volunteers in order to create the online archive was repeatedly highlighted by the MP during Monday’s launch. Some of the issues received were literally in pieces. According to Duncan, over four miles of archival tape has been used so far.
“Some papers were damaged by rodents or insects,” said archivist Susan Peters. “I had some that came to me with animal feces on it. It’s more than just gathering up newspapers and putting them in order. Given that most of these papers are the only copies known in existence, you have to be patient.”
Duncan is involved in a similar initiative that aims to digitize and index copies of Cornwall newspapers, such as the Standard-Freeholder, the Seaway News, Le Journal, and others. A request to Conrwall city council for financial support was not included in the 2021 budget.