Take a digital walk down memory lane
By Paul Mayne
March 07, 2013
Want to check out that photo of yourself on the 1929 Players’ Club? How about that group shot of you and your fellow 1951 Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity members? Maybe that was you in the 1974 photo of Western’s skydiving club?
Now, thanks to Western Archives, you can do just that with a click of your mouse.
Working with the University of Toronto’s Internet Archive, a non-profit dedicated to building an Internet library for researchers, historians, people with disabilities and the general public, Western Archives recently completed a project to digitize the Occidentalia (Western's yearbook), from the early 1920s through the 1980s.
Tom Belton, senior archivist at Western’s Archives and Research Collections Centre, said the collection offers a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of university life at Western, from academics to athletics and beyond.
“It occurred to me one day, would it be possible for us to get this content (yearbooks) digitized, because these things are used all the time; people are always asking for photos,” said Belton, who is responsible for the university records and publications in the archives. “While there are duplicates here, and I’m sure a few scattered around, we get asked about them a lot. So I thought they would be a could candidate to go online.”
Unsure of copyright issues with some of the older yearbooks, the University Students’ Council (USC) got behind the project and this past November a complete set of the yearbooks were sent off for digitization – all 13,812 pages.
The $1,400 project offers a variety of formats and options to alumni for printing and downloading. Belton said the digitized yearbooks run from 1921 through 1974 and 1987 through 1989, noting the university stopped producing yearbooks in 1975, with a short revival in the late-80s.
“As we celebrate Founder’s Day, I am very pleased that, with the support of the USC, Western Libraries have been able to make one of the university's important and popular historical resources available to our alumni worldwide,” said Robin Keirstead, university archivist. “While we will continue to ensure that our archives are physically preserved on campus, we also hope to be able to make more of our history available virtually, either directly on our own website or through partnerships with others, such as the Internet Archive."
Belton added while his area takes care of the preservation aspect of the yearbooks, this latest project brings it to a whole new level.
“When we think of the yearbooks we tend to think of just graduation photos, and while that is certainly part of it, it’s also the class pictures, the faculty members, the art that was contributed, the student life,” he said. “This is more about opening up that access.”
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