Dundas County Archives
Susan Peters, archivist at the Dundas County Archives in Iroquois, is shown just outside the building which serves to preserve and protect artifacts associated with the history of Dundas County. She commented how pleased she was to see the project launched. She mentioned how not only will this project be an invaluable research aid for people to easily access, but it will also lessen the use of fragile older copies of our newspapers. Courtesy Photo
CORNWALL – There was an air of excitement as the official launch of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Digitalization Project was held via Zoom on Mon., May 3.
The project will allow people free access to approximately 2,000 photos from the Lost Villages Museum and around 210,566 pages from Dundas and Glengarry County newspapers. SDSG MP Eric Duncan commented that he realized while research for a North Dundas District High School Reunion was being done, the importance of the work was to ensure the local newspapers be preserved for research and for posterity.
United Counties warden Frank Prevost commented in a post launch press release how “newspaper reports can be considered the first rough draft of history” and county council “believed in this project from the outset.” Duncan accompanied by Dundas County archivist Susan Peters, Lost Villages Historical Society president Jim Brownell and Allan MacDonald, Glengarry county archivist made a presentation to the SDG county council in 2019, after which “financial support totalling $181,132 came from the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, which also committed staff time to help create and launch the project” according to Prevost.
Duncan extended a special thanks to the newspaper companies and private citizens who provided copies to the Dundas Archives which were then digitalized. In addition to The Chesterville Record and Morrisburg Leader which are still in publication, there will be access to papers such as The Winchester Press, the Mountain Herald and the Morrisburg Courier which have ceased publication.
Peters explained how after receiving the papers they had to be organized, repaired, and prepared for digitalization in keeping with archival practices. She described how the piecing together of some newspaper pages was like “puzzles we had to put together” and mentioned the earliest papers’ date was from the 1860s. In a post event email, Peters mentioned that between the Dundas County Archives (DCA) and the Glengarry County Archives (GCA) “there are about 19 different newspapers.”
Peters noted the DCA are still accepting donations of newspapers and there are still holes in the collection to be filled. Peters took a moment to “thank the service clubs, the Lions and Legions of Dundas County for funding archival tissue repair tape and the archival newspaper boxes. Alan Favreau designed and donated the custom newspaper boxes for the Morrisburg Leader back issues” as well as the newspapers who provided copies.
When asked about major obstacles to overcome, other than funding Peters noted how when the project began, the DCA “had no newspapers in our collection”. Duncan worked with the publishers of the newspapers to have access for digitalization and then the public were invited to donate old newspapers for the project.
Peters and Duncan commented how the digitalization of these newspapers will greatly benefit those conducting genealogical, historical, or social research with a wealth of information which is accessible and free to use. Peters mentioned that as well as preserving and protecting the original documents themselves, “the fact that this is available to anyone and free of charge is a huge benefit.”
Peters noted that many research enquiries she had received, needed to be researched using the newspapers, the digitalization of the papers with free public access, will free her up for other duties in the archives. She concluded by commenting how “as [her] mandate is to collect, preserve and make available the historic records of the region, this is the best example of fulfilling that mandate.”
While the digitalization project has been launched, Duncan pointed out the work is continuing. He mentioned there are plans to work on digitalizing Cornwall newspapers as well as continuing with digitalizing other Glengarry and Dundas newspapers. He also noted how LVHS members Ginette Guy and Jim Brownell are working on providing more information on the photos which are part of this project. Peters mentioned how “if anyone has stray copies of older newspapers that they would be willing to lend us or wish to donate to us, I am happy to add them to this project moving forward.”
The digitalization project can be accessed at https://archive.sdgcounties.ca.
Carolyn Thompson Goddard, grew up in Chesterville and attended North Dundas District High School. After completing her BA in Political Science at Carleton University she has worked as a medical secretary and library technician. In 2020 she graduated from Algonquin College with a diploma in Journalism and has been a reporter and column writer for The Chesterville Record for over 10 years.