Documenting the North in the Digital Research Centre

One summer, thirteen archival collections and over 10,000 individual items scanned.

Funded by the NHDS, the Digital Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan has undertaken a project entitled “The Idea of the North: Exploring Evidence of Resilience and Change”.

The National Heritage Digitization Strategy

The National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) is a national initiative to encourage and support Canadian memory institutions in digitizing, preserving, and improving access to documentary heritage via digital collections. The NHDS is the first coordinated effort to develop strategies to digitize analog collections in Canada. 

The goal of the NHDS is to promote and facilitate digitization in Canadian memory institutions and encourage quality standards that complement strategies developed by the institutions themselves. For more information on the NHDS and associated projects, visit the NHDS website.

The Idea of the North

The project focuses on digitizing archival materials related to the Subarctic to High Arctic regions of Canada, particularly northern Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut as documented in the work of southern citizens, researchers, and Indigenous community members. It also incorporates aspects of life in other circumpolar nations including the US, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia as seen in materials created by Canadians.

To most Canadians, the regions examined in this project are relatively unknown. The idea of the North often evokes cold, desolate landscapes, harsh climates, vast territory, and unpopulated wilderness. However, these conceptions often do not reflect the true nature of the Canadian North and the experiences of the North in other circumpolar nations.

Drawing on resources from 13 different collections in the University Archives and Special Collections in addition to materials from other Saskatchewan memory institutions, the project incorporates thousands of items in a wide range of mediums. The materials emphasize change in the North as seen in the environment through geology and ecology; socially as a result of resource extraction and the arts in northern communities; and politically through Canada’s evolving role in circumpolar relations. The selection curated for “The Idea of the North” works to question current conceptions of the North and to challenge and expand understanding of the land and its inhabitants.

Virtual Gallery

Two University of Saskatchewan graduates, Marie Chatlain and Lauren Warrington, undertook the daunting task of scanning over 10,000 archival items and uploading over 3,000 of those to a searchable database. These items include photographs and slides, field notes, and visual and audio recordings. Once the project is complete, this database will be available for the public to view.

As part of this project Chatlain and Warrington also created a virtual gallery to show the diversity of materials within the collections.

The Idea of the North, virtual gallery. Medium: 360° digital animation (Blender and Unity). The exterior of Murray was designed by 4th year comp sci student, Michael Ruffel under the direction of Ian Stavness for his CMPT 485 course. Interior floor plan design and selection of objects by Marie Chatlain and Lauren Warrington.