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Exploring town history in the Local History Room at the library (7 photos)

A plethora of material on the town's history is available right at your fingertips inside the BWG Library

The Bradford West Gwillimbury Library Archives merges the old with the new with both digital and physical records.  In the ever-growing collection of historical records and information, the role of technology to preserve and enable access to that information grows.  

The Emerging Technologies Librarian, Sarah Petryshyn, who oversees the Local History Room and Archives says, “Digital archive space is endless, and physical space is limited.” 

While some physical items are housed in the archives, the focus is on expanding knowledge without the need to struggle to preserve old material, and running out of space. Large items are best suited to the Simcoe County Museum in Minesing. 

Some particularly delicate and older physical documents are better preserved at the Simcoe County Archives.  The information can then be digitized and available through the Bradford digital archives. 

The material and information held directly through the BWG Library comes from Bradford citizens and the Bradford West Gwillimbury Historical Society.  Petryshyn says, “The local historical society has been incredible in bringing all the resources together. Their passion really comes through.”

“We get a lot of donations and we try to piece it together: who it is about, when, and what’s going on. We do our best. It’s an ongoing process,” says Petryshyn. 

During the summer, a student works full time at organizing and archiving materials.

The public is invited to increase its sense of community and belonging by visiting the Local History Room and archives. An appointment with Petryshn is needed in advance of a visit to the archive room. It houses the most delicate collections. 

The Local History Room includes a number of resources including Bradford and Simcoe County newspapers, maps, family histories, an index of what’s available, and newspapers on microfilm dating back to 1854. Petryshyn encourages a person’s own agency in using the self-serve options, and accessing the digital archives from home.

If help is needed to find specific information, Petryshyn is available by advance appointment. Before meeting, she requests as much information as possible, such as names, dates, and location to help narrow a search. She acts as a guide.

She says, “It’s not a Google search.” It takes time to pull resources together and appointments can be lengthy. She adds, “Diving into Bradford’s rich history is really fun. When you find that golden nugget someone is looking for, it’s very satisfying.”
Anyone wishing to donate relevant information about Bradford’s history and its citizens is invited to contact Petryshyn. She will determine if it is appropriate to Bradford, or the Simcoe County Museum or Archives. Donors are asked to fill out a form including whatever they know about the item or items. 

 Petryshyn says, “I can’t thank the people enough who are passionate for contributing to this collection. The only way to answer people’s questions is through what is in here.” 

In addition to preserving history for the public at the BWG Library, the inclusion of a new digitization station makes it possible for residents to preserve their personal histories that currently exist in old formats.  

The library just purchased a 8mm digitizer. It also offers a scanner to digitize old slides and negatives, and a VHS converter to MP4 format that can be put on a USB stick. 

The machines are all easy to use with help guides in place. Support in using these is also available. Converting personal files on these machines does not mean they have to have anything to do Bradford. 

Petryshyn says, “It’s wonderful to help people preserve their own personal collections.” She adds, “If they are significant to Bradford, we’d love it if they shared them.” 

To access the digital archives visit here

Rosaleen Egan is a freelance journalist, a playwright, and a storyteller. She blogs on her website