UBC's new digitized newspaper site includes several historic Kootenay papers

UBC's new digitized newspaper site includes several historic Kootenay papers

Historic Kootenay newspapers go online

Anyone who’s ever spent a few hours on a microfilm reader searching an old newspaper has thought “There must be a better way.”

Anyone who’s ever spent a few hours straining their eyes on a microfilm reader while searching for an obscure item in an old newspaper has thought “There must be a better way.” Now, at last, there is.

Thanks to the University of BC, needle-in-the-haystack searching is a thing of the past, at least as far as several local papers are concerned.

The British Columbia Historical Newspapers Project, officially launched this month, has made several Kootenay-Boundary newspapers, mostly from the 1890s and early 1900s, available online, fully searchable by keyword and browseable by date.

Here are the Nelson Miner, Tribune, and Economist, Sandon Mining Review, New Denver Ledge, and Ainsworth Hot Springs News, among 18 others. Previously, a few BC newspapers had been digitized, but these are the first from our area.

“We’re trying to make it so you don’t have to go to a library that has the specific microfilm and then struggle with the microfilm to get to the right place,” explains Allan Bell, director of the UBC library’s digital initiatives program.

“This makes this material so much more available and you get the serendipity of putting in the keyword and seeing how that has been represented throughout the province and across time.”

The project was about a year in the works, and accomplished in part through a donation from a private family foundation. To begin with, they identified about 200 papers that folded before 1925, which were easier to deal with for copyright reasons.

“Out of that, our archivist, Chris Hives, picked 24 to be geographically distributed across the province and also hit communities that you don’t usually see,” Bell says. “A lot of these were papers that didn’t have a big run, so they were pretty obscure.”

They scanned microfilm masters supplied by the BC Archives, broke up the pages into individual images, and then worked on improving the optical character recognition that allows for the keyword searches.

“Because they’re on microfilm, you have to do some clean-up,” Bell says. “But we got pretty lucky. If you put in keywords, you’re going to get results that at least put you in the territory.”

Single pages can also be downloaded in JPEG format, while entire issues are downloadable as PDFs. More papers will likely be added, including others from West Kootenay, but there are already enough online to keep most history buffs occupied a long time.

“I think from a local history and genealogy point of view, this is going to be amazing,” Bell says. “A lot of people are going to find things it would have been very difficult to find before.”

Indeed, as many historians will agree, the most interesting items rarely come with a banner headline — they are more often relegated to two lines in the back pages.

Bell says local newspapers provide a unique perspective on Canadian heritage and “reflect the social and cultural life of the community.”

“My favourite thing is looking at the First World War and how that affected local communities,” he says. “How they banded together to meet the challenge.”

The site is at historicalnewspapers.library.ubc.ca.

Kootenay Boundary newspapers newly digitized by UBC, with dates available:

The Miner (Nelson) (1890-93)

The Tribune (Nelson) (1892-94, 1897-98)

Nelson Economist (1897-1900)

Kootenay Mail (Revelstoke) (1894-1905)

Boundary Creek Times (Greenwood) (1896-99)

Grand Forks Sun (1914-20)

Hot Springs News (Ainsworth) (1891-92)

Mining Review (Sandon) (1897-1903)

Moyie Leader (1898-1911)

Phoenix Pioneer (1900-16)

The Ledge (Nakusp, New Denver, Fernie, Greenwood) (1893-1913)

The Prospector (Fort Steele) (1899-1905)

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Edna Whiteley in 2016. “Her whole life has been happy and about helping others,” says her nephew Bob Steed. Photo: Submitted
Nelson’s ‘little firecracker’ Edna Whiteley turns 100

Whiteley is known as a welcoming ambassador for new arrivals in the city

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
67 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Thirty people in the region are hospitalized with the virus, 11 of whom are intensive care

An animal carrier full of bullet holes and containing a dead animal was found near Castlegar. Photo: Colleen Schwartz
Castlegar woman finds dead animal inside carrier riddled with bullet holes

The remains were discovered near Syringa Creek Provincial Park

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
Kootenay-Columbia MP pans federal budget

Conservative Rob Morrison says budget doesn’t have a plan for long-term spending priorities

These are the faces we were born with, we are sorry.
VIDEO: Wednesday Roundup

Bill and Tyler chat about the latest in Nelson

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Most Read