The weekly newspaper La Liberté is celebrating its 100th anniversary by going digital.
The French-language publication, which was founded in 1913, is announcing today it has digitized the more than 5,000 newspapers it has published during its first century and is opening them up to the public.
Sophie Gaulin, the paper's editor-in-chief and director general, said on Tuesday the paper has also been publishing online for a few years, but now the paper's entire archives will be fully searchable using keywords. And, Gaulin said, searches will be free.
"This is the Google of the francophone community," Gaulin said. "It is as powerful to us as that.
"We realized in 2009 we only had two full copies of each of the papers in the world and we got scared they could be damaged. People would read the papers and turn the pages and it damages the pages."
Gaulin said one of the biggest finds is now being able to search for obituaries.
"The information in them is valuable, not only now, but 50, 60 and 100 years later for learning what our ancestors used to do," she said.
Gaulin said it took more than two years to digitize every edition and page of decades of La Liberté.
Gilles Lesage, the director of the La Société historique de Saint-Bonifaceace, said the digitized archives of La Liberté will be an invaluable resource for researchers, students, and people just looking for information.
"La Liberté was covering the whole francophone population of Manitoba — and for a period of time Saskatchewan — for 100 years," Lesage said.
"You get a lot of information from the towns because some had an article written about them every week. And not only did it cover the communities, but also a lot of the francophone people themselves."
Lesage said people could have accessed the archives through microfilm at a few libraries, but this is much better.
"Microfilm is not searchable," he said.
"Now you can really save a lot of time with research. And people will be able to find information on their families and their communities."
The project was financially assisted by the Université de Saint-Boniface and the University of Alberta, which operates the Peel's Prairie Provinces Project and digitizes documents, books and newspapers.
The digitization of La Liberté’s archives was also financially assisted by the Société franco-manitobaine.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 8:17 AM CDT: corrects spelling of La Liberté
10:34 AM: Adds the digitization of La Liberté’s archives was also financially assisted by the Société franco-manitobaine.