Province digitizing centuries-old trading post records to mark Manitoba 150
Published Thursday, February 28, 2019 5:46PM CST Last Updated Thursday, February 28, 2019 8:51PM CST
The province of Manitoba will celebrate its sesquicentennial in 2020 and plans to mark the anniversary are well underway.
The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBCA), which is part of the Archives of Manitoba, is getting help from The Hudson’s Bay Company History Foundation for a mass digitization project, one of the first Manitoba 150 projects.
HBCA is digitizing over 1000 reels of microfilm copies of pre-1870 trading post records, making them available to the world online.
“Our project specifically relates to records created between 1670 and 1870, and specifically post records,” said Bronwen Quarry, an archivist with Hudson’s Bay Company Archives.
The records include post journals, accounts and district reports that provide information about the history of the fur trade, North American exploration and the development of Canada as a country.
“They provide a real snapshot into life here in Canada hundreds of years ago. You can get a real sense of Indigenous voice for example and these records continue to be used for land tenor rights and hunting rights even today," said Quarry.
The post records were initially created to provide information for the people who were running the Hudson’s Bay Company back in London, UK.
“Information in there could include information about what’s happening at the post but also who’s arriving and who’s leaving, goods being traded. People use them to look at animal population, weather conditions and weather patterns,” added Quarry.
“Some of the clerks were very meticulous and very conscientious and some of the clerks not so much. So the writing sometimes is a joy to read and sometimes it takes three or four of us,”
The Project started in 2018 with approximately 1100 reels of microfilmed pre-1870 trading post records.
HBCA estimates that those reels contain close to 20,000 volumes of records. They will now be processed and integrated into the Archives of Manitoba’s online database. Once the project is complete the files will be accessible to the public.
“Our most common users are academics and genealogists but they have a wide variety of uses. We are sending our microfilm reels currently out internationally, all over the world our records go out but not everyone has access to a microfilm reader,” said Quarry.
This project is part of the National Heritage Digitization Strategy, which outlines a way for Canadian memory institutions to work together to digitize, preserve and make accessible Canada’s documentary heritage.
The project will also highlight Manitoba's documentary treasures as the province gets ready to celebrate its 150th birthday in 2020, and the corporate holdings of the Hudson's Bay Company as it approaches its 350th anniversary.
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