State-of-the-art scanner will help digitize local history

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State-of-the-art technology will ensure mountains of historical paperwork, including copies of local newspapers dating back to 1860, will be preserved in perpetuity. 

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The Norfolk County Archives recently acquired an overhead archive scanner with an eye to digitizing a vast collection of newspapers, maps, council meeting minutes, tax assessments dating back to the 1870s, and other municipal and private documents.

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“It will take many years,” said Josh Klar, archivist at Norfolk County Archives. “We just have two staff here but a large team of volunteers who will assist.”

The $25,000 scanner was purchased with $21,000 in donations from the Bradstreet Family Foundation, the Hellyer Foundation, the Norfolk Historical Society and the Vittoria and District Foundation. The rest came from money in the archives reserve.

“It’s really exciting,” said Klar. “We’ve been working toward getting a scanner for about a year and thinking about for even longer than that.”

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Similar scanners, made to scan large-format items, are used by many archival organizations, said Klar, including Brock University, Elgin County Archives and even the Smithsonian.

Klar said digitizing what are now bound paper copies of the Norfolk Reformer, Simcoe Reformer, Delhi News Record, Nanticoke Times, Times Reformer and Lakeshore Shopper is particularly exciting.

Anyone who wants to find information in an old newspaper edition must leaf through hard copies or the aging microfilm collection. Newsprint, which is highly acidic, especially as it ages, can break down and tear easily. The digitized version will preserve 165 years of local news and be “key word searchable,” making the hunt for articles much quicker.

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“It will be so much easier for the public to access them,” said Klar.

Norfolk County Archives launched its online database just last year and a limited number of records, mostly photographs, have been uploaded. Klar said a new platform will be developed for the digitized newspapers, the number of which will grow over time.

Other documents that could be digitized are records from local businesses and community organizations. The Rotary Club of Simcoe, chartered in 1925, recently donated its records to the Norfolk County Archives. Other gems, said Klar, are records from the Women’s Institutes of Norfolk County, whose members strove to document the history of “little local communities,” when no one else did.

The Norfolk County Archives, located in the Eva Brook Donly Museum at 109 Norfolk St. South, is open to the public on a drop-in basis or by appointment Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Klar said it’s a hub for genealogists and those looking for historical information about local homes, businesses, industries and all things Norfolk.











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Maria Lewis

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