Volunteer Allen McDermid explains how to use the new digital microfilm scanner at the Ladysmith Archives.

Volunteer Allen McDermid explains how to use the new digital microfilm scanner at the Ladysmith Archives.

Hunting for history now easier in Ladysmith

A new digital microfilm reader at the Ladysmith Archives make sexploring the Ladysmith area's colourful history even easier.

A new digital scanner, reader and printer is making exploring the colourful history of the Ladysmith area even easier.

The Ladysmith and District Historical Society purchased an INDUS digital film scanner and software, as well as a printer, for the Archives this February.

Allen McDermid, a volunteer with the Ladysmith and District Historical Society, has spent hours and hours scanning microfilm copies of old Chronicles into the new program, and he will be spending many more hours digitizing the newspapers.

The Ladysmith Archives currently has copies of every Chronicle from 1902 to about 1920 on microfilm.

Once the paper is on microfilm, the new machine will read the file and then you can scan it and turn it into a digital PDF file. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the images are converted into machine-encoded text. In Adobe, you can enter a search word, and the program will bring up every document that contains that word, highlighting your search term.

“We’ll be taking every page of every edition of the Chronicle and putting it into a PDF file,” explained McDermid.

McDermid says one of the big benefits of having this new scanner is that it will preserve the had copies of the papers, many of which are getting quite brittle.

“There’s less handling of them, so it will help us preserve them the way they are,” he said.

McDermid is excited about the new machine because it also helps the Ladysmith Archives do what it wants to do best — help people.

“It will allow the public and researchers to do public research,” he said. “There will always be someone here to guide you, do it for you or help you. Before, if you came in with a project in mind, we’d have to go page-by-page, so this kind of streamlines the whole process. When we go online, it’s going to be very easy to use.”

McDermid says Ladysmith Archives is the first archive in the mid-Island to have this type of machine.

Eventually, they’d like to get put this program online so that people can sit at their own desks and do this research from anywhere, says McDermid, noting a lot of archives offer this service.

“We kind of want to use it as an outreach tool to invite the public in to do research and learn more about the history of Ladysmith,” he said. “We want to take it into the schools and show them what we have and how we can help them with any project related to mining or any aspect of the history of Ladysmith and district. By putting it online eventually, anybody can access it. It also brings Ladysmith to the forefront. If they were looking for mining, Ladysmith would come up. We’re using the web to introduce Ladysmith to the world.”

McDermid says people can make an appointment to use the microfilm scanner, and one of the volunteers will be there to help them, or they can contact Ladysmith Archives to do research on a subject, and the volunteers can look that up for them.

McDermid thinks the traffic to the Ladysmith Archives will increase once people find out about the new scanner.

“We are excited about this, and once we get it working fully, it’s going to be amazing,” he said.

McDermid says they’ll have to purchase more rolls of microfilm, and the Ladysmith and District Historical Society will be doing some fundraising so it can add to its collection.

“By the time we’re done, we should have [every Chronicle] from 1902 to 1959 on file,” said McDermid. “Anything after 1959, you can go online through the University of Victoria or the Royal Museum Archives to look at issues.”

The Ladysmith Archives provides free, public access to thousands of documents related to the history of the Ladysmith area. Their holdings include newspapers, photographs, maps, letters, ledgers and many other types of records, and they manage Ray Knight’s extensive collection of archival materials for the Town of Ladysmith.

“We’re kind of the gateway to the history of Ladysmith,” says McDermid. “We’re here to serve the people, and with museums and archives, the whole idea is easy access for people to learn about different aspects of whatever they want — town history, family history, business history.”

The Ladysmith Archives office is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 250-245-0100.

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