The Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive was founded in 2010 at the Leddy Library, University of Windsor. At that time, the region was underserved in terms of online, primary sources for local history research. The goal of SWODA was to change this situation by leveraging our experience with electronic resources and digitization to make a wide array of unique and historically significant materials freely available online for all researchers. These materials came from both our own collections and from those in community organizations. From the beginning, SWODA has collaborated extensively with a wide variety of University and community partners.

Parameters for SWODA

Geographical focus

Windsor and Essex County; also Chatham-Kent and Lambton Counties, and Detroit

Time period focus

Mainly out-of-copyright materials. Most of the online collections date between 1870-1970
Subject focus

Local history, architecture, culture, and social life

University of Windsor/Assumption College

Format focus

Images: photographs, postcards, ephemera, etc.

Text materials: books, directories, yearbooks, newspapers, etc.

Benefits of SWODA

Opportunities for research and publishing are enhanced because there is easier access to:

  • the information content of fragile resources, all the while preserving the physical documents themselves
  • rare materials that previously needed to be locked away for security reasons
  • difficult format materials, e.g. photographic negatives

Provision of metadata enables faster and more effective information searching and retrieval

Allows access from anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or week

Supports the undergraduate learning experience by allowing students to more easily relate their studies back to their own local environment and community

Allows faculty and library staff to spend less time overcoming access issues and more time helping students and researchers with the interpretation of primary source material; enables more creative and original course design and delivery

Cooperation and collaboration with the campus and local community builds trust and good working relationships that allow for the continued growth of the Archive and other related projects

Provision of space, equipment, software, and expertise also builds digitization and online communication skills that allow researchers’ work to reach a greater audience and more effectively engage users with their content

The process of digitization, which includes the review of collections, assessment of condition, and the creation/enhancement of metadata also results in better control and management of University resources and information content

The Archive serves as a promotional and marketing tool for the University

General Processes and Activities

The process to create online resources varies somewhat depending on the type of resource that is being handled. We endeavour to follow archival and library standards and practices. Some of the basic steps include:

  • Select materials based on the above SWODA parameters, the materials’ intellectual and interpretive value, and physical condition. Ensure that the resource has not already been digitized elsewhere.
  • Convert text or pictorial information into electronic images by scanning or using a digital camera.
  • Clean and process the electronic images.
  • For text materials: process using optical character recognition software.
  • Create/enhance metadata to enable users to more easily find the materials.
  • Using database and web software, e.g. Omeka, provide a platform so that users can effectively search, retrieve, and understand the digitized resources.
  • Ensure the long-term preservation of the digitized collections, e.g. using Permafrost.

More detailed SWODA Standards and Guidelines