Crowdsourcing history at the archives

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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The Moose Jaw Public Library is looking for help solving mysteries of its archives.

Saskatchewan archives week runs until Saturday. The library is hosting an opportunity to put names to faces in old photos.

“Last year, we had an archives intern working and she was cataloguing a bunch of photos and there were lots of people in them that we didn’t know who they were,” said head librarian, Karon Selzer.

The archives intern had the idea to invite the public to come help identify some of the people from the more than 5,000 photos in the library’s fault.

“People came in and managed to identify quite a few people in them. That’s really helpful,” Selzer said.

The library will be holding the event again this year. It will start at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

She said a decent amount of the photos don’t have captions and names attached. Others have only incomplete captions because of the amount of people in some of the photos.

“We try to identify as many as we can, of course,” Selzer said. “It’s always nice to have somebody in who remembers what was happened.”

Solving the mysteries of the library’s archive on Thursday corresponds with provincial archives week.

Archives week is celebrated the first full week of February in honour of Edmund Oliver. He was the first professor of history at the University of Saskatchewan and is regarded as the founder of a meaningful archival collection for the province.

This is the eighth year of celebrating the efforts to preserve and celebrate Saskatchewan’s history.

Selzer said Moose Jaw’s archive was started in the late 1960s as an off-shoot of the province’s centennial celebrations.

According to the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan, the late Leith Knight initiated a local history collection in 1968, a year before she would start her weekly column for the Times-Herald.

“She was the one that spurred on the development of it,” Selzer said. “She knew so much about the history of Moose Jaw. It was incredible.”

Though she hadn’t been actively involved with the archives for several years, Knight’s death at the end of June 2013 at the age of 89 was a loss of information, Selzer said.

The library doesn’t have annual archive interns. Members of the public must be supervised by a staff member in the archive reading room after making an appointment. Members of the public are not allowed in the vault.

Selzer said a lack of space and equipment is keeping the archive from being able to store video. But for anyone with old photos and documents, the archive gets most of its content from donations.

Organizations: University of Saskatchewan, Times-Herald

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw

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