Our multicultural history

July 10, 2008

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Catch a rare glimpse into B.C.’s ethnic and First Nations traditions and family life from historical photographs. Listen to first-person accounts of the struggles and achievements of refugees from Vietnam or Hungary. It’s all available at multiculturalcanada.ca. Library staff, with help from students and partner institutions, have just completed a massive one-year, $500,000 project to digitize 31 collections representing newspapers, photographs and oral histories about Canada’s ethnic groups.

Lynn Copeland, SFU librarian, says the project was more work than anticipated. Take The Chinese Times newspaper which spanned 77 years: "Once we captured a digital image," she says, "we had to run it through an optical character reader to create the Chinese character index so people have the option of typing Chinese words into the search engine." Copeland expects the newspaper won’t be completely loaded for several months.

Still, she says, the entire project is well worth the effort. She notes that during Open House in May, visitors trying out multiculturalcanada.ca at work stations "just didn’t want to leave."
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