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Date: January 14, 2008

Digitized Documents Put BC's History A Mouse Click Away

One hundred and fifty years ago, with gold rush fever surging up the Fraser River, the British government established the mainland colony of British Columbia—a companion to the colony of Vancouver Island. The colonies merged in 1866 and when they joined Canada five years later, the former gold rush boom town of Fort Victoria became the new province’s capital.

Many of the stories of this tumultuous era are told through books, maps and other documents in the University of Victoria’s Special Collections and Archives and soon they’ll be accessible with just the click of a mouse. With the assistance of a grant from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, UVic is digitizing materials that are especially significant to Victoria’s and the province’s early history.

“UVic’s Special Collections is a pioneer in making raw history available online,” says history professor John Lutz. “The maps, books and extremely rare ‘ephemera’ being made available will help students and researchers understand the impact of the gold rush on Victoria and its subsequent growth. Victoria was the entry point for the British Columbia gold fields and, of all the communities in BC, it benefited the most.”

Materials chosen for the project include: five original hand-coloured maps of Vancouver Island circa 1855-1859, made by the colony’s surveyor-general, Joseph D. Pemberton; six early tourist pamphlets of Victoria, including captioned photographs; Victoria Illustrated (1891), a rare book published by The Colonist containing many contemporary illustrations and tables depicting Victoria life, people, resources, industry and architecture; and the diary of Victoria pioneer and amateur historian Frank Sylvester (1834-1908) containing 150 entries about contemporary life, travels and ships in Victoria during that period. Other documents and ephemera of Sylvester’s, including historical essays, photographs and business records, will also be digitized.

“UVic is digitizing some of its most significant early Victoria material to help celebrate BC’s 150th birthday,” says UVic’s Digital Projects Librarian Chris Petter. “The Ike Barber grant has made it possible to hire a graduate student who will digitize some very challenging documents. The library will in turn store this new data in its new digital management system so that users can find specific images and text through a simple Google search.”

The documents will be available on the library’s image display system at http://contentdm.library.uvic.ca:8000/cdm4/browse.php
Media contacts:
John Lutz (History) at 250-721-7392 or jlutz@uvic.ca
Chris Petter (Digital Project Librarian) at 250-721-8247 or cpetter@uvic.ca
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7656 or ppitts@uvic.ca

UVic media releases and other resources for journalists are available on the World Wide Web at http://communications.uvic.ca/media

(image: fern)