Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Archival research from the comfort of one’s home…

I recently committed to writing an article on the Corner Brook mill whistle and its relationship to World War II and Remembrance Day. Of course, once I got into the writing process, I found a few gaps in my research that needed to be filled — and fast! With a tight deadline to submit the article for peer review, I found myself wishing for two things: 1) to be in Corner Brook so that I could go through back issues of The Western Star (the local newspaper) and 2) to have access to the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland & Labrador. As a joke, I posted to my facebook timeline, “My kingdom for a copy of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador! And a bag of sour candies and some mini eggs and a cold diet pepsi…”

Well, imagine my surprise when just a few moments later, a friend replied, “Will digital do?” She attached the URL for the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador available via the Digital Archives Initiative at Memorial University (thanks Michelle!). The entire thing. Searchable! I quickly typed in a few keywords and found the answer to one of my questions about radio in Corner Brook during World War II.

While there on the DAI site, for a lark I browsed the newspaper holdings and clicked on The Western Star just as I had many times before during the course of this project. In the past, I found the first three decades of the publication. Much to my surprise — and rather fortunate in terms of my looming deadline — I discovered that additional volumes had been added since I last checked and now 1900-1952 were available! Again, all searchable!

I must admit that I interpreted both of these finds as “signs” that I really was meant to write the article between June 1 and June 10. It seemed as though the stars were aligning for me! I was able to do the archival research required not only in a different province, but while sitting in the comfort of my apartment on my sofa (though, sadly without a cold diet pepsi).

So, I thought I should share these incredibly valuable resources — and all the many others — that have been made available by Memorial University through the Digital Archives Initiative. This is an amazing initiative and I can’t wait to see what else ends up available online in the future!

Thanks to everyone involved in the DAI at Memorial!

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