Chilliwack Progress will make history

Chilliwack Progress archives, dating back to 1891, will soon be digitized by the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

A big chunk of the Chilliwack Progress archives, dating back to 1891, are on their way to being digitized by the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.

The Irving Barber Learning Centre at UBC came through with its grant of $15,000 for the Chilliwack Progress Digitization Progress, along with $5000 greenlighted by the Chilliwack Foundation and another $5,000 from the City of Chilliwack, approved under Community Development Initiatives funding.

“There are 182 microfilm reels that take us up to 2009,” said Shannon Bettles, heritage records manager at the Chilliwack Museum.

The digitization part of the project has a budget of $25,000, and then it will take another $120,000 to make them available online. No one has ever attempted such a large-scale digitization project, spanning so many generations.

The first phase is an effort to digitize between 90 and 100 years of the Progress, starting from its launch 1891.

“Almost 100 years is pretty significant,” she said.

The Progress has the honour of being the oldest newspaper published continuously under the same name in Canada.

For the museum, it’s recognized as being Chilliwack’s oldest and most important written record collection.

“It’s an incredible resource,” said Bettles. “This is one of the most important assets we have. It’s used every day by people from around the world, looking for obit, articles and information.”

The plan is to eventually get the whole project online and searchable.

Digitization will be conducted by Commonwealth Imaging of Alberta, and a copy will be housed at the archives.

Access will be greatly improved, once everything is scanned and converted to PDF format, as well as preserving the hard-copy newspapers and microfilm for posterity.

“Everyone is going to get so much out of it.”