Campus Life  

UBC Okanagan Library leads project to bring local history to life

UBC Okanagan students Eamon Riordan-Short and Sharon Hanna scan in materials at the Peachland Museum in spring 2017.

UBC Okanagan students Eamon Riordan-Short and Sharon Hanna scan in materials at the Peachland Museum in spring 2017.

Digital portal provides access to photographs and documents from the past

A new online resource has brought the faces and names of the Okanagan’s colourful and vibrant history into the 21st century.

Coordinated by UBC and featuring rich, local content from project partners, this new website brings the people and places from the Okanagan region onto the screens of valley residents. Recently launched, Digitized Okanagan History (DOH) currently includes almost 4,000 photos and documents dating back to the turn of the last century. And that is just the beginning.

“While we have some 3,800 items available on the site, we have scanned or collected more than 30,000 digital objects since this project began last summer,” explains UBC Okanagan Chief Librarian Heather Berringer. “It’s a developing collection that is changing and growing weekly as we are able to add more and more images to the portal each day. The collection will only get larger and more comprehensive as we go along.”

Last year a team of UBC students and archivists visited 11 repositories, stretching from Keremeos and Osoyoos to sites in Sicamous. Their goal was to digitize two-dimensional documents and photos tucked away in a variety of collections using portable scanners. Since then, they have been uploading the images to the DOH portal, the online resource created by the Okanagan Region Historical Digitization Project, which was generously funded by a private British Columbia based foundation, says Berringer.

The goal is to provide a centralized portal to support research and generally improve access to local resources. Prior to the launch, anyone interested in accessing a photo or document dating back to the past century would have to visit the local museum or historical society—many of which are run by volunteers and have restricted hours. DOH links people to all 11 repositories and many of the hidden historical treasures on a 24/7 basis.

“The Okanagan Valley has a long and interesting history, and the local repositories have done an excellent job preserving the photos and documents that tell its story,” says Paige Hohmann, UBC Okanagan archivist and special collections librarian. “Now, they are at the fingertips of anyone who might be doing research, or is simply curious about people and events of the past.”

Though the portal is clearly beneficial for people interested in regional history, whether working on research or curious about their family’s past, UBC’s university archivist Chris Hives says it goes deeper than that.

“Through this project, we’ve been able to ensure that multiple digital copies of these photos exist in different places. There is in the historical community, concern about possible damage to these irreplaceable resources through fire or flood,” says Hives. “I see this as a definite contribution to the long-term stewardship efforts and preservation of history. Now, we can ensure ongoing access to those images that document the history of these unique communities.”

Explore the project’s digital collections: doh.arcabc.ca.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

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