Online Mennonite photo database “the future of digital community archives”

MAIDAfter two years of design and development, the Mennonite Archival Image Database (MAID) is live for public use at archives.mhsc.ca.

“Never before has the public had this kind of access to photos from Mennonite archives,” says Jon Isaak of the Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies, Winnipeg. “MAID opens up a host of new possibilities.”

The new tool helps archives manage their photo collections and provides internet access to the photos.

The online solution is a project of the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada and includes Mennonite archival partners in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Costs for the project are shared on a sliding scale.

“We could not have undertaken such a large project on our own,” says Korey Dyck, director, Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg. “By working with other partners we were able to pool our financial and intellectual resources.”

Currently MAID holds more than 80,000 descriptions of photos and more than 9,000 images. These numbers will expand, says Laureen Harder-Gissing of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

“MAID is energizing our partner archives to digitize our photo collections. Having all our photos searchable through one source will be a boon for genealogists, historians and anyone interested in finding out more about Mennonite and Canadian history. Local communities across Canada will also find their histories represented.”

The project is collaborative, made-in-Canada. The software is an open source code developed by the B.C. company Artefactual, supported by the International Council of Archives, and known as Access to Memory (AtoM). This AtoM software has become a popular archival tool across Canada. PeaceWorks Technology Solutions of Waterloo, Ont., customized the code for MAID.

Patrons can search, view and order images for non-commercial uses. “This digital tool creates an important link, tying the day-to-day workings of Mennonite archives across the country together in a way previously not done,” says development team member and former Heritage Centre director, Alf Redekopp. Cooperation will be ongoing as partners will continue to add, develop, manage and pay for the database.

“We are already looking to the future,” says development team leader Conrad Stoesz. “MAID can be expanded to include other partners with Mennonite photo collections, new formats such as textual records or sound recordings, or additional sponsors to help us expand our vision.”

“MAID shows the future of digital community archives,” says University of Manitoba archives professor and former senior digital archivist at Library and Archives Canada Greg Bak. “By combining their resources, a number of Mennonite organizations have made innovative use of technology to create a platform that allows them to pool their archives and draw together their community, across Canada, in a common, online space.

“By using open source code and contributing back to the code base, archives around the world that use AtoM can benefit from the new functionalities created by PeaceWorks for MAID,” says Bak. “It is wonderful to see the Canadian Mennonite community working together, embracing digital technologies and contributing to the development of open source technologies.”

—Conrad Stoesz, archivist, Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies and Mennonite Heritage Centre, Winnipeg

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