What is the ORHDP?

Funded by a donation from a private B.C.-based foundation and based out of the Okanagan campus of the University of British Columbia, the ORHDP was created to improve the accessibility of historical documents and photographs found in museums and archives in B.C.’s Southern Interior by scanning them and putting them online. To do this, a mobile digitization lab was formed, comprised of two laptops, two flatbed scanners, one book scanner, and four enthusiastic UBC students.


Sicamous & District Museum & Historical Society

This site visit was the teams first of the Fall 2017 Term. This visit only had two of our team members heading out and collecting scans. This included our new Co-op student, Sarah accompanied by Sharon who had been on numerous visits over the summer. This Museum is primarily run by volunteers and is located in a building that shares space with the Okanagan Regional Library.

Sharon hard at work

The focus of the visit was on capturing the Centennial collection which was collected throughout the community with the museum asking individuals to come forward with their photographs of the area, the museum then captured these while obtaining as much information about the subjects of the photographs. Using the equipment brought along, the team was able to use the negatives that the Museum provided. They also were given a small tour of the town by Gordon Mackie, a prominent figure in the town, serving as mayor and working with the ferry service in the past.

In addition to the work done at the Museum Sharon and Sarah were graciously set up with accommodation at the Artists House Heritage B&B. Over the course of the three days in Sicamous, Sharon and Sarah took in the incredible history of Sicamous and the Shuswap Lake area. This included multiple trips to the D Dairy  Dutchmen to enjoy an after work snack of ice cream and going to the homey comfortable Grandma and Grandpa’s restaurant most days.

The trip was an overall success with 530 scans captured and even more migrated from the museums computer. The collections give a unique look at the life and work in this area over the last hundred plus years.

Experience Profile – Sarah Robb

Hello! I am a graduate student entering my last term of my Masters of library and information sciences. Working on the ORHDP has been an incredible experience thus far, I have had the opportunity to do hands on work and be a part of the processes of editing, gathering metadata and scanning. I have got to explore the province and work with great collections in small towns that I would not have had the chance to visit if not for this work.

This is a unique opportunity and I have enjoyed it immensely. With this position I work as a team lead and work with our under graduate students. I work as a liaison for the team on our site visits and perform quality control on our edited images and metadata.


Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives

Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives was the third over-night trip, and my last on-site collection trip of the season.

Alex and I worked on scanning the textual documents of the Katie Lacey and Kruger Family Fonds, while Sharon migrated finding-aids for them, as well as approximately 1500 pre-scanned photographs. We created more original scans here than at any other repository: over 1400 scans in three days!

The Kruger Family Fond was largely comprised of personal letters sent to the Krugers, one of the earliest colonist families to settle in the area. The Katie Lacey Fond contained primarily personal and business letters, illustrations, and manuscripts. Lacey herself was a writer and a founder of the Osoyoos Museum. A large portion of the documents were too large for our scanners, so two scans often had to be made for each page. Lucky for us, the museum staff had a coffee machine they graciously gave us access to.

I personally enjoyed peering at Osoyoos’ museum collections, especially their old pianos and insect collection.  I also got the opportunity to make friends with our kind hosts’ many pets, including (but not limited to) Obsidian the cat.

The Katie Lacey Fond was just too dense for us to complete within our three-day term, but interest has been expressed in loaning some of the collection to the project to complete at the university.  Here’s hoping!



Keremeos Museum

The site visit to the Keremeos Museum was the team’s second overnight trip this summer. The Museum was in the process of moving from its original building (an old holding cell) to its new location: the former Keremeos Masonic Hall. The building was quite spacious and came with a piano, much to Eamon’s delight. On our second day in Keremeos, Eamon and I were interviewed and photographed by a reporter for a local newspaper, so we’re looking forward to seeing what she writes about the project!

Our three days there were very productive: we captured over 900 original scans of locally published books, photographs, negatives, and documents. Sharon was also able to migrate the museum’s large collection of pre-existing scans of photographs and their relevant metadata records, so overall it was quite the successful trip!

Evenings were spent going for walks along the Similkameen River and listening to our host’s fascinating stories from his life as a trapper. We also made our fair share of furry friends on this trip: Buck, our hosts’ dog, who showed his enthusiasm for us kicking a ball for him by twirling on himself and Clochette the kitten who came to visit with her owner and explored the Masonic Hall.

Experience Profile – Emma Smith

I’m an undergrad entering my second year as a Psychology major. I’m enjoying taking a variety of courses, mainly concentrated in the social sciences, with the goal of going into education and/or research.

I’ve also, in no small part due to this project, been looking into a career as a librarian!

My specialties for this project are metadata and graphic design. I perform both editing and basic metadata for the files we scan, but I prefer the spreadsheet manipulation and the structured, almost menial tasks on the metadata side of things. I also have a bad habit of picking up graphic design resources online, so I’ve more recently volunteered to help out with branding and other design needs for the project.

I’m also on the autism spectrum, and have found this job to be very well suited to some of the challenges I face. I work with a small, friendly team; I perform tasks with clear end goals and specific steps; I can travel around the Okanagan with the structure of a job; and I can indulge a special interest in libraries and museums.

I’ll be continuing my work part-time into the 2017-2018 school year. I’m looking forward to working with files from more collections and gaining more work experience!

Armstrong Spallumcheen Museum and Art Gallery

Art and archives … our team at work

Our project necessarily involves forging relationships with people working in the repositories of the Southern Interior; I enjoy meeting new people when we go off-site to a new museum, and occasionally I meet someone who leaves a lasting impression.

Such was the case when we visited the Armstrong Museum and Art Gallery. Our team (Alex, Emma, me, our leader Paige Hohmann, and UBC Vancouver Archivist Chris Hives) arrived early at the location, so we took time to enjoy an atmospheric cup of coffee at a local haunt. When the museum’s doors opened at 10, we were greeted and ushered into our working area — to my delight, we were to work in the art gallery part of the building.

Next on the agenda for me was meeting Linda Nadon, a woman somewhat my senior, and the local tech expert in charge of the museum’s archival records database. It soon became clear to me that Linda knew her way around the database and that there wouldn’t be too much work for me to do — she took charge of the migration and I was able to leave to work at home after an hour on site! Linda revealed that she was self-educated in archives database management; it was only later that I learned that she had completed an undergraduate degree in biology and a masters in statistics, in addition to other formal education. When I asked Linda what she would say to young women pursuing studies in a technical field, she offered,

My advice is to study anything that interests you, and study a variety of things. You are more likely to end up working at something you are interested in, if that is what you have studied.  And a varied background makes it more likely that you can find some sort of work.  There are lots of different avenues into technology. You don’t have to have the kind of brain that works best with binary decisions, there are lots of image and sound ways to interact with technology. Even if you intend to dive in deep into structured technology, try balancing this by using the creative side of your brain.  I studied art for a few years and I paint and draw.  This hobby has helped me with the work I do in our photo archives in the restoration of digital copies of photographs. It also helps me solve problems in a non-linear manner. 

As an older person with an Arts background studying computer science, I found Linda’s words inspiring, and am thinking of asking her more about her work with statistics. Thus, our repository visit opened new horizons for me — an outcome I could scarcely have anticipated.

Migrating Content

I’m the “Geek Squad” of our project: as a computer science student, it’s my task to scope out the digital records and scanned documents of the community repositories we visit, and migrate these to an Excel spreadsheet so that our team can easily check and supplement their records for items they’ve scanned. Every museum has unique holdings, and the time it can devote to scanning and archival description depends upon its staff and financial resources. Some museums run on volunteers, whereas others have professional archivists. Many maintain Microsoft Access databases with metadata – data about data, or in other words, records describing the items (mostly photos) that we will scan. Others use software written especially for museums, or simply keep their records in a Word document.

My job on arrival at a repository is to talk to the resident tech expert about the museum’s record-keeping software and practices. I copy any scans the Museum has on site to our external hard drive, and export any metadata to an Excel document. Easy-peasy, right? Yes, usually, but when I have to extract data from a Word or text document, I sometimes feel like an archaeologist trying to get an ancient script to give up its secrets!

Finally, to complete the migration process, I “map” the fields in the repository’s database to the terms that we use. We follow the Qualified Dublin Core (DC) standard for archival description, which specifies the metadata fields we use … for more information, see http://dublincore.org/. For the formatting of data, we refer to Resource Description and Access (RDA), a set of guidelines for cataloguing intended for libraries and other cultural institutions. The repositories we work with, however, don’t necessarily follow the same rules as we do — hence the need to “massage” the data.

Helping with data migration has proved to be one of the most interesting and challenging parts of my position, and I have a hunch that this skill will serve me well in my future career!

Summerland Museum and Archives

Summerland was our third site visit and first overnight trip. It also happens to be Sharon’s hometown!

We worked in the back room of the Summerland Museum and Heritage Society, surrounded by boxes of archived materials. We quickly got to work on the pre-selected photographs, which came with measurements and plenty of information ready to be plugged into our metadata spreadsheets. Also in the collection was a Women’s Institute minute book, which Alex took to scanning using our Xcanex portable scanner. We captured over 500 original scans during the course of our visit.

While Sharon was able to easily make her way home, Alex and I stayed overnight at the home of the Summerland Museum’s archivist in Penticton. We enjoyed a couple of meals at downtown restaurants and an evening walk by the water. We even spotted the SS Sicamous, which I recognized from several photos we had scanned earlier, now converted into a museum and permanently docked on Penticton’s shore. It was a great little moment of seeing history come to life!

As per what quickly became my tradition, I also picked up several souvenirs from Summerland. I was happy to find that there was a branch of the Okanagan Regional Library just a hop away from the museum, and I picked up as many books as my travelling messenger bag could handle. Pictured here are the ones yet to be returned!

Experience Profile – Alex Neijens

Hello! I’m a graduate student entering the second year of my dual Masters degree in library and archives. Working for the ORHDP has been an amazing opportunity because it allowed me to get some hands-on experience in archives and project management and allowed me to travel throughout the region and learn more about its history.

During my time here, I’ve assisted in the management of the project by writing project documentation, acting as a liaison for the team while we were out on site visits, and checking the quality of each and every scan we created and/or edited to make sure that they are all ready to be put online.

My other main task is to develop the metadata for each of our scans so that they will all be searchable when they are put online. While we try to take as much information as we can from each museum or archive, sometimes we have to create metadata off of our own observations or research when the information made available to us is not enough.

While I will sadly be leaving at the end of August to return to my studies in Vancouver, I’ve really enjoyed being able to visit each of the museums we’ve worked with and being a part of such a fun project!

Historic O’Keefe Ranch

The Historic O’Keefe Ranch outside of Vernon was the second location for on-site collection.

It was decided that only a two-person team made up of Alex and myself were required for scanning the chosen objects at this site. We set up in a main room of the Greenhow Museum, in which we were able to discuss our project with passing museum patrons, and glance around at the artifacts.

We worked together on scanning the Ranch’s collection of magic lantern slides: glass projection slides from the early 20th century. Though most slides had cardboard borders that prevented the glass from scraping our scanners, protective sheets had to be used for some of the more deteriorated slides. The slides mostly contained World War I illustrations, photographs of Ireland, England, Egypt, an English Royal visit to India, and scenes from the Bible. Despite no local photography, it was an impressive collection.

The slides required multiple scans, one for the reflective border, one for the transparent image, in the end it amounted to over 650 scans, a grand total of 395 objects. 631 more images and the associated data were migrated from the Museum’s computer. Many of these were the photographs and textual documents of the O’Keefes, noting other historic families of the Okanagan Valley.

Naturally, lunch breaks were spent wandering the ranch, so I got to make friends with some baby goats.