The front page of the Revelstoke-based Kootenay Mail newspaper Volume 1

Revelstoke-based Kootenay Mail archives now online

Kootenay Mail archives from 1894-1905 one of several regional newspapers now digitized and keyword searchable online.

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 B.C., 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 B.C. 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

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Golden police seek Good Samaritan after house fire

An unidentified individual may have saved lives in the early-morning fire.

Revelstoke lawyer uses her good fortune to help others

For Melissa Klages, lawyer and owner of Arrow Law Corporation, being a… Continue reading

Revelstoke maternity team keeps mom grounded during COVID-19

Melyssa Hudson gave birth to her second child April 29

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for May 21

Items from Revelstoke newspapers, as gleaned and edited by Cathy English, curator… Continue reading

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Vancouver Foundation grants benefit Okanagan-Shuswap residents

Grants of up to $500 available for ideas that connect people socially or involve sharing skills

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Water quality advisory rescinded for Central Okanagan system

Turbidity levels improve enough to rescind advisory issued for Killiney Beach system May 11

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

UPDATE: Two sent to hospital following Okanagan highway accident

Drivers in head-on collision air-lifted to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries

Most Read