That’s the position the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) found itself in. The society’s collection of interviews from the 1970s contained historically valuable perspectives on immigrants’ experiences in Canada and on global circumstances and events, but they were virtually inaccessible to researchers: the tapes were stored in a Toronto archive, the technology to listen to them was becoming scarce, and the tapes themselves were deteriorating.
The MHSO solved the problem by applying for a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, and additional funding from other sources to create an online digital archive. A team of employees and volunteers is now hard at work digitizing, transcribing, editing and cataloguing those interviews and thousands of photographs and newspaper pages for digital access.
I’m one of the volunteers. For me, it’s a chance to apply my editing skills in a new context while I learn about the experiences of other Canadians. For the MHSO, it means this treasure trove of oral histories will soon be available to researchers around the world in text and oral format through their online Oral History Museum. Watch for its launch later this year.