Bruce County history to become more accessible through digitization

Ahead of Archives Awareness Week starting April 4th, the Bruce County Archives at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre (BCM&CC) announces its extensive newspaper digitization project aimed at preserving the County’s historical news and making it more accessible to the public.

The project will include the digitization of up to 12 historic Bruce County newspapers from their earliest years of operation dating back to around the 1930s. The project will launch later this year with the digitized papers available for viewing on a new BCM&CC web resource, enabling the public to easily browse and search their contents from the comfort of their homes.





“Hundreds of people per year visit the museum for research purposes, accessing news on microfilm, or in original hard copy,” says Deb Sturdevant, Archivist at the BCM&CC. “This initiative will offer a new gateway to local history, as everyone with internet access will be able to freely read these newspapers form their home, regardless of where they live.  Prior to the pandemic, the Archives received an average of 660 in-person researcher visits per year.  An estimated 40% of researcher visits include accessing newspapers, with the assistance of Archives staff, on microfilm or in original hardcopy for their research.   Many more individuals would access the newspapers if they could conduct keyword searching to help them find that “needle in a haystack” piece of information about their research subject.”

Once digitized, the newspapers will be uploaded to a new BCM&CC website enabling the general public to both browse the papers and search the contents.   “Digitization is occurring from both master negative microfilm reels, which we have sourced from a microfilm vendor, municipal heritage group, and our collection, and from original papers where microfilm of a reasonable quality does not exist,” adds Sturdevant.

The initiative is expected to offer a new gateway to local history, as everyone with internet access will be able to freely read these newspapers form their home, regardless of where they live or their mobility.  Due to the geographical size of the County, not every Bruce County resident can access this valuable resource by travelling to the BCM&CC in Southampton. In addition, many former residents or people with connections to Bruce County, now living in other places, find it difficult to travel here to access resources.

According to Museum staff, last year, over 54,000 users from all over the world visited to look for descriptions of items available to view in the Research Room and to browse images of artefacts, historic photographs, letters, diaries, and more.  We expect that many people will also be interested in exploring the newspaper site when it becomes available as well.

Over the past few years, the Archives has received an increasing number of comments and requests from researchers expressing their desire to have access to digitized Bruce County newspapers.

Historian Bill Streeter

“I am delighted with this initiative,” says Bill Streeter, Chair of the Municipal Heritage Committee and a local historian.

“This will help incredibly with my research when it comes to accessing historical information.”

Due to advances in technology and trends in libraries and archives, many public libraries and archives have also begun newspaper digitization projects and access to digitized newspapers is gradually becoming an expectation of the public.  

Sometimes people ask about the earliest or oldest papers in the Collection.  “The oldest Bruce County issue in our Collection is the Bruce Weekly Herald, Walkerton, August 13, 1861,” says Sturdevant, “and the oldest Saugeen Shores paper is the Port Elgin Times, March 9, 1882.”

Funding for Bruce County’s Municipal Modernization Program (Intake 2) Projects is provided in part by the Province of Ontario. Additional funding for the project is also provided in part by the Federal Museum Assistance Program. The project is set to conclude before the end of 2022.

About the Bruce County Archives:  The Bruce County Archives holds an extensive Collection of local newspapers, in original and microfilm formats, for decades following 1930 as well. Over 23,000 images are viewable in BCM&CC’s Online Collections site, along with descriptions of other resources which may be viewed in the Research Room.

About the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre:  The Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre offers adult and children’s programming, special events, and is home to the Bruce County Archives & Research Room. Our mandate is to preserve and make available the documentary heritage of Bruce County.

For more information on Museum programming, exhibits and the Archives, visit:
Bruce Country Museum & Cultural Centre