Ever wonder what it was like to live during the First World War?
The Pictou Antigonish Regional Library is going to help people do just that with a project that combines information from 100 years ago with today’s technology to allow people to receive regular posts about the local news coverage during the war years.
Chief librarian Eric Stackhouse said he and other library staff were trying to decide how to commemorate the war when River John C@P Society member and owner of Seafoam Woodturning Studio, Derek Andrews, came to them with an idea of allowing people to step back in time to life in Pictou County in 1914.
Stackhouse and Andrews sat down with the library webmaster and talked about the possibilities.
Their first question was, “Is it even feasible?” But after looking in their archives they found they had three papers they could draw on from the time period: The Eastern Chronicle, The Free Lance and the Pictou Advocate.
What they found in the pages was more than they could have hoped for. There were stories of everything from kids raising money to buy bandages to send to the front to the fear of people hearing booms in the distance and wondering if it was a German battleship off their shores.
There’s even things you don’t think about, said Stackhouse, like a huge order for underwear for the army that was filled locally.
The blog will be located on the library’s website and people can sign up to an email list to get notifications when a new post has been added.
“It’s not just the typed-out version we put up,” Stackhouse said. “There’s an actual image capture of the article. Sometimes you’ll see other things that are happening in the time. I think people will be surprised.”
The project is a huge commitment for the library, but he said the nice thing is that they can schedule posts in advance. Already they’ve loaded in stories through December that will be released on the exact date they did 100 years before.
Andrews said he’s happy to see the idea he had turn into a reality. He said he had been involved with other digitization projects in the past in River John and had been on the lookout for other ways to use that technology to make history more accessible to people.
“This seemed like a good opportunity given the fact the library has microfilm copies of a lot of old newspapers.
“It’s nice to see that the resources that are at the library in terms of all the microfilm being made more easily accessible. Obviously people can go and look at it themselves, but it is a fairly big time commitment.”
Blog posts are slated to start Aug. 4, the day the Great War was declared, and will continue to Nov. 11, 2018, a century after the armistice was signed.
Stackhouse said they hope to include some photos and other bits of info from the Pictou County Military Museum to the blog as well.
To coincide with the blog, Stackhouse said they’re also promoting the books and other WWI-related resources they have at the library. He said they have a variety of books that will offer different perspectives to the war. One book for instance is about how animals were used during the war. Another, they hope to add to their collection soon will include panoramic views of all the battlegrounds of the war.
The library is also offering an expanded digital collection focusing on the First World War, including e-Books, DVDs and photos.
There will also be a monthly spotlight on stories from Antigonish and Pictou counties related to the Great War. The first touches on Major Margaret C. MacDonald, matron-in-chief of the Canadian Nursing Service, from Baileys Brook.
To kick off the launch of the blog, there will be a book reading from author and historian Dr. Ross Hebb at the New Glasgow Library, Aug. 6 at 11:30 a.m. Hebb’s book to be released by Nimbus Publishing in August, is titled Letters Home, and is a collection of correspondences of 20 people shipped overseas from across the Maritimes, asking about their homes and farms, wondering at the girls in Britain, and leaving keepsakes and life advice for their children.
Life on the Home Front
What is it: A blog featuring newspaper clippings from the war period between 1914 and 1918.
Where: Found online at http://www.parl.ns.ca/greatwar/index.html
When: Launches Aug. 4 and will continue until Nov. 11, 2018, a century after armistice was signed.
Created by: Staff at the Pictou Antigonish Regional Library. Idea came from Derek Andrews of River John.