Discovering more about Manitoba’s rural communities and their residents is now easier thanks to a digital history project called Manitobia.
The project provides internet access to local histories produced by communities across the province. Phase 1 of the Manitobia website – manitobia.ca - was launched on Feb. 11.
Manitoba Historical Society webmaster Gordon Goldsborough is one of a dozen volunteers who have worked on the project for the past two years. He was joined by staff from the Manitoba Library Consortium, Manitoba Legislative Library, University of Manitoba archives and other members of the Manitoba Historical Society who gathered and digitized 250 books detailing the history of Manitoba municipalities, towns and villages.
"It makes these books more readily available," said Goldsborough, adding that some are out-of-print.
The original intent of the project was to provide a resource to support Manitoba schools’ curriculum, and a provincial association of social studies teachers helped guide the volunteers’ work. However, the site’s search feature allows genealogists, researchers and anyone looking for their family histories to easily find information on a specific subject or person.
He estimates that approximately 1,200 community history books have been published since the 1880s, and the website will continue to grow as more books are added.
The site lists communities with links to their history books, but some communities are missing from the list. Goldsborough explained that not all community groups want their books featured on Manitobia because they are selling the print or digitalized versions as fundraisers.
Books detailing the history of the RMs of Macdonald and Rosser and the community of Marquette are available.
He said that historical information was also published in pamphlet-form and he hopes to track these publications down as well.
"That will be our next challenge."
The site also contains copies of Manitoba newspapers, maps and photos.