ORIGIN of ELGIN COUNTY WOMEN’S INSTITUTES and their TWEEDSMUIR HISTORIES
Elgin County’s first Woman’s Institute branch was formed in Aylmer in 1902. Elgin’s Institute branches have had a deep, positive effect on their respective communities. Under the motto “Home and Country” members engaged in efforts such as knitting hundreds of pairs of socks for local First World War soldiers, making tons of preserves for British and European families in both World Wars and leading the drive towards pasteurized milk in Ontario. They contributed to scholarships and held fundraisers for the local hospitals and the Elgin County Museum. Women came together under the banner of the Federated Women’s Institutes and worked tirelessly to make life better for their families, their neighbours and the world beyond.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
When the project began, there were 27 Tweedsmuir History volumes containing approximately 5000 pages on hand at the Elgin County Archives. As word spread about the project, this number grew to 50 volumes with over 7000 pages. The volumes were disassembled to allow each page to be individually scanned without distortion. The pages were almost all scanned as jpeg images as this yielded a high quality image with a smaller file size. As the books were being scanned, we took the opportunity to do assessments of their condition, with an eye towards prioritizing future conservation efforts. We carried out minor repairs such as replacing metal fasteners with archival clips, storing fragile items in archival folders and removing surface dirt. The volumes are all stored in document boxes at the Archives’ temperature and humidity controlled storage facility.
In March 2012, the second phase of the Elgin County Women’s Institute Tweedsmuir History Book Digitization Project began. The goal was to scan the remaining twenty-five volumes in the Elgin County Archives and make them available online. The project was made possible by funding from the Elgin County Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, Elgin County Historical Society and Elgin County Women’s Institute Branches.
The project concluded with twenty-eight volumes in December 2012, three being donated during the scanning stage. More than 6200 pages and 2000 photographs were scanned. Two more volumes were scanned in the spring of 2013.
The volumes included in this phase are part of the permanent collection at the Archives and will be ‘retired’ from public use. They will not be returned to their original enclosures, but rather be wrapped in acid free paper in archival boxes and be housed in the Archives’ climate controlled storage vaults.
Scanning each photograph was new to this phase. This was done for a few reasons. Not surprising, photographs are the most sought after items from the Tweedsmuirs for reprints and viewing. The scanning allowed for high resolution images to be made once and saved for future use, preventing extra handling and exposure. As well, the Archives now have direct control over the images, as the books are part of the permanent collection. This is a major step forward for the Archives and this project. The high resolution scans will also be valuable for use in exhibits and for other Archives activities and outreach.
The original page numbers assigned in the books were not used, as not everything in the book was scanned. For example, almost each volume begins with a tribute to Lady Tweedsmuir, and the history of the establishment of the Women’s Institute by Adelaide Hunter Hoodless. This information has been scanned once, and unless it is different, it is not scanned a second time. Also, in this phase, we scanned all pages of pamphlets instead of just the cover. This was unless the pamphlet was not directly relevant to local history. These additional scans or omitted pages throw off the original page numbers.
The pages for each volume are grouped for ease and efficiency of online access, ranging in size from 5 to 21 pages. These files do not exceed 5 MB in order to accommodate those still on dial-up. The files have also been formatted to open in Adobe Reader 8 or newer.
Also new to the second phase, was the use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which will allow users to search each group of documents for key words. This may be done by using “Ctrl f” function and entering a key word. The OCR only works on the typed, computerized or neat printing. At this time, it does not recognize characters in cursive print and some older type-faces.
Keyword searching is restricted to the following volumes: