From books to bytes

Pat Roome, director of the Centennial Archives Project, is heading a project to make Mount Royal yearbooks available online.

Mount Royal's Archives has completed the first steps of a project that will make historical documents, such as yearbooks, easier for faculty, staff and, eventually, students and the public to access and use.

More than 40 Mount Royal yearbooks, including one from 1911, were scanned and digitized over the summer. By next summer, MyMRC users should be able to access PDF versions of the digitized yearbooks on their computers.

“Yearbooks are full of information — names of students, alumni and faculty as well as pictures,” says Pat Roome, director of the Centennial Archives Project. “They are the oldest publications we have in the College, and as we approach Mount Royal’s Centennial, we will want to be able to use that information.”

Working with technician Janice Nermo, Roome began by scouring the Archives to locate all existing Mount Royal yearbooks.

“We know the yearbooks have been in high demand because there are endless photocopies,” Roome says. “That was the old technology. New technology allows us to digitize the books.”

This was done using a highly specialized scanner called the Kirtas APT Bookscan 2400, available only through Calgary’s West Canadian Graphics.

“Why digitize the yearbooks?  Because it gives you different ways to access and use the material without damaging it,” says Roome, adding preservation is key.

This page has been scanned from the 1938 Mount Royal yearbook.

Photo courtesy Mount Royal Archives.

“Documents can be loved to death,” she explains. “Many of these yearbooks are unique in Western Canada because Mount Royal is so old, but the originals are really too fragile to be using. And, in many cases, the digital image is almost better than the original.”

One example of new opportunities for using the digitized yearbooks was on view during the Students Association 40th anniversary celebrations on Dec. 8. The SAMRC worked with Roome to enlarge photographs of past student councils and Student Union executive committees to use as decorative displays.

Now that digitized copies of the yearbooks have been placed on Mount Royal’s server, the original yearbooks will be placed in cold storage.

This is the faculty and staff page is from a 1940 College yearbook.

Photo courtesy Mount Royal Archives.

Photocopy duplicates will be available in the Archives, and the digitized versions will be available for research.

Next steps in the project involve scanning Mount Royal calendars and researching a document management system that would enable users to search the digitized materials.

Equally important is the need to research issues around making the images and information in these publications available online.

“The minute you make it live, all of that information is available to the world — that’s both good and bad,” Roome says. “It’s huge publicity for Mount Royal, but you have to remember that none of these people thought when they agreed to be photographed or to submit a silly poem that people in, say New Zealand, would someday be reading it.”

Faculty and staff can access these digital yearbooks by dropping by the Archives which is open Wednesdays or by appointment.

─ Nancy Cope