Going digital

Imagine a McGill alumnus wanting to take a trip back down memory lane to their university days. If their yearbooks were lost or misplaced years ago, where would that alumnus turn? A quick search on the Internet would turn up yearbooks.mcgill.ca, a digitized collection of McGill yearbooks cataloguing student life from 1898 through to 2000. So, while hairlines may have changed – or fine lines appeared – the yearbook pages digitally preserve those youthful days, ensuring some things never have to change.

Keeping pace with changing technology, the McGill Library has digitized extensive collections, thereby increasing electronic access to much of its materials. Other technological advances, like the addition of smart boards and interactive work spaces, ensure students’ evolving needs are anticipated – and met.

“Ultimately we want to make our rare and special collections available to the world via the Internet,” says Amy Buckland, the eScholarship, ePublishing and Digitization Coordinator.

Support to Campaign McGill has been invaluable in funding these efforts. Digitization is about preservation, and Buckland says the Library is targeting McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections. McGill’s extensive collection of 900 chapbooks, published between 1780 and 1878, and including rare children’s stories, nursery rhymes and abridged novels, are in the process of being digitized.

They will be made available through a new web interface, enabling McGill faculty and students to conduct research. The McGill Library’s Chapbook Collection has been made possible through a generous donation from the Harold Crabtree Foundation.

Another important example of a digitization project is the Osler Library of the History of Medicine Prints Collection website. Funded through the Friends of the Osler, it brings together a rich variety of visual documents related to the history of medicine, spanning several centuries, countries and artistic media. This varied collection of approximately 2,500 prints offers a fascinating look into the history of medicine through popular imagery.

Generous annual gifts from alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends, is another means of supporting promising Library advancements – as has another generous gift from the late David Edwards, BSc’69, a former McGill staff member.

The David Edwards Endowment for Digitization is helping to put more of the McGill collection online, much like the yearbooks are preserving the past – as time goes by.