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UPEI cuts 'Virtual' Ribbon for

From Nicole Phillips, Media Relations and Communications Officer, Department of Integrated Communications, University of Prince Edward Island

Charlottetown, PE The Honourable Robert Vessey, minister of Tourism and Culture, UPEI President Wade MacLauchlan, and University Librarian Mark Leggott cut the “virtual” ribbon today for, the website home of the digitization process and resulting collections maintained by the Robertson Library at UPEI. The site is based on Drupal and Fedora open software applications combined in the Islandora framework.

The website encompasses a number of collections related to Prince Edward Island and is a rich, evolving resource that stewards and protects PEI’s print and digital heritage. Each initiative that falls under the umbrella site involves content or financial contributions from the Island community, including individuals, community groups, PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, and the Public Archives and Records Office of PEI.  

“ will prove to be an invaluable tool for researchers, authors, academics, students, and all Islanders interested in learning more about our rich heritage,” said Tourism and Culture Minister Robert Vessey. “Our government is pleased to have been a part of this exciting project through the Public Archives and Records Office and the creation of, which features more than 1,000 maps, charts and plans, all available to researchers free of charge.”

Because of the ongoing nature of the project, members of the Island community as well as people from across the country are encouraged to visit to contribute personal stories and visuals to this new online, developing archive. The Library also continues to seek financial support to sustain the project as new content is collected.

“The project exemplifies what can be achieved through strong partnerships committed to preserving and sharing our Island history and its resources,” said President MacLauchlan. “With support from government as well as from heritage-minded groups and individuals, UPEI is proud to offer a collaborative platform that enables a wide audience to share the benefits of digital historical collections and what they contribute to community building.”

The vision for was developed after the Robertson Library became involved in A Living Archives, a project that allowed PEI Grade 7 students to experience Island cultural artifacts first-hand, write about their favourite items, and virtually experience student life on the Island in the 1890s. The rich image archive made available through this endeavour led the Robertson Library to develop the facilities and expertise in ‘lifting the words and images’ from archival documents and to create the tools to weave that information into new linkages and discoveries.

“ incorporates a physical facility with computer systems optimized for digitization and online storage of digital artifacts. It allows learners from around the world to view our rich Island heritage in a digital environment,” said Leggott.

The Library’s recent acquisition of an Espresso Book Machine™, one of only a few such ‘print-on-demand’ machines in Canada, completes the ‘artifact to digital, back to physical copy’ loop because now books that are out of print, in the public domain, and in digital format on can be potentially reprinted in paperback format.

Leggott added, “With this equipment and expertise to collect, store and create copies of historical artifacts, will become the definitive and living Prince Edward Island historical record.”

To contribute, visit by initiative encompasses a number of Robertson Library initiatives as outlined below.

IslandLives –digitizing the Island’s local, architectural, and personal histories. The ongoing project not only digitizes existing materials, making them available via a variety of technical tools, but also extracts unique place names, personal names, events, and dates to create a rich environment for researching PEI’s heritage. In a truly unique innovation, IslandLives creates a dynamic listing of families—and stories from their histories—facilitating ongoing updates of new information and pictures, creating a living encyclopaedia of Island lives.

IslandNewspapers—digital versions of PEI’s historic newspapers, from the first issues to the 1950s. Original page images are linked to the searchable full text, providing the first complete online history of the Island and its people. Using special features of Islandora (software developed at UPEI) these stories are linked to IslandLives and other components of For example, UPEI and partners in the US and UK have mapped the distribution of diseases (such as cholera) over time by mining the richness of information within our newspaper collections.

Island Voices—an audio archive of oral histories, song, and other aural recording that present the story of PEI. IslandVoices includes such diverse collections as the oral histories recorded by historian Dutch Thompson, and similar material from the Benevolent Irish Society of PEI. These rich audio treasures are fully accessible via a sophisticated browsing interface, as well as a full-text search of transcripts and keywords from the sessions. By creating lists of keywords linked to specific times within the audio files, it is possible to weave links to stories and images from the other collections.

IslandStories—a comprehensive archive of the books, reports, letters, diaries, and other print publications produced by and about PEI. Much of the material digitized from this collection comes from the collections of the Robertson Library and Public Archives and Records Office of PEI. For example, in partnership with the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, the Robertson Library has digitized the complete Island Magazine collection. In some cases, where important documents are out of print, the system, with its recent acquisition of an Espresso Book Machine™, will provide a special “print on demand” service.

IslandImagined—a comprehensive collection of Island maps through historical record to the present day. Another partnership with Public Archives and Records Office of PEI, this project digitizes, describes, and makes accessible historical cartographic materials from a number of Island collections. Through the use of maps, charts, insurance plans, and atlases, IslandImagined explores the development of the province’s human and natural geography and creates a narrative based on a series of themes, providing unique and compelling interfaces to the Island’s cartographic resources.