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THEN AND NOW: Digitizing the past at Yarmouth County Museum

Archived newspapers to be scanned and digitized


They stand slotted on shelves, some not having seen the light of day for decades. Thousands of newspapers from 1829 to the present day have typically been accessed via the archives at Yarmouth County Museum & Archives.

This year, a new project will see many of those issues viewable by digital image thanks to the Newspaper Digitization Project.

Lisette Gaudet, archivist at the Yarmouth County Museum and Archives, says she finds the content of the archived newspapers fascinating.

“Sometimes I’m supposed to be doing research and you see something that catches your eye and I have to tell myself not to go down that road,” she laughs.

“I find the advertisements particularly fascinating,” she said.

“I saw one ad, ‘Seeking Woman as Maid,’ and that was it. No address or phone number. There wasn’t a lot of detail in them.”

She says one very unusual newspaper article was about a woman in the States who fell ill.

“She had four children and was married and when her husband went to visit her and wanted to give her a kiss, she refused. She told him she had never kissed him and was never going to kiss him, even when she was sick,” said Gaudet.

About 90 per cent of the content in newspapers published in the 1800s was world news, she added.

The local news hardly classified as news, it was more gossip, she says.

Medicine was often advertised as being a cure-all for many ailments.

What really struck Gaudet as being interesting is that many of the issues discussed by modern society were also topics in the past. These include fires, bankruptcies, schools, tourism and fundraising for the unfortunate.

One thing that remains steadfast is the sense of community.

“Newspapers may have only been 10 per cent local news in the 1800s but you felt the strength of the community through the ads, the concerts, the different organizations that did things for relief efforts and first aid.”

Gaudet says the museum is purchasing an overhead scanner for the digitizing project, along with optical character recognition software.

“We’re looking at not only the newspapers but also scanning oversize photographs and oversize documents. It will be a huge project,” she said.

An extra staff member will be dedicated to the task, which should be underway in June. Newspapers from 1836 to the 1960s will be scanned to start with. Gaudet estimates most could be done and available for viewing by December. A large hard drive is also being purchased for storing the files.

Users will be able to enter a word in the search field to search the scanned newspapers. Eventually, people may be able to search the files online.

“Right now we don’t have the capacity of getting on the website and scrolling through but we’ll have a list of scanned newspapers and we can send the files to you and you can look at them through your leisure through email,” said Gaudet.

The project will help to preserve the state of the newspapers from handling.

Gaudet says the museum would like to thank everyone who donated for this project.

“It’s an important one,” she said.

Shiploads of new goods arrived on a regular basis and ads in the newspaper were a valuable means of communicating.
Shiploads of new goods arrived on a regular basis and ads in the newspaper were a valuable means of communicating.


Newspapers in the archives

Hard copies and microfilm available for viewing

Herald/Herald & Telegram: Editions from 1829 to 1960. (A few copies missing from the collection, mainly from the 1940s and 1950s.)

The Yarmouth Herald: Editions from 1875 to 1966

The Telegram: Editions from 1871 to 1915

The Yarmouth Times: Editions from 1883 to 1917

The Daily News: Editions 1896-1897 and 1899

Tribune: Editions from 1857 to 1883

Coast Guard: Editions 1898-1899

The Advertiser: Editions from 1935-1937

The Daily Globe: Editions from 1909

The Light Herald: Editions from 1968 to 1974

The Vanguard: Editions from 1966 to present

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