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About Our Roots


Canada's Local Histories Online brings Canadian history to life! This unique, online, coast-to-coast record of Canadian local histories reflects the breadth and depth of our country's heritage, and celebrates the diverse landscapes, resources, and people that have contributed to sculpting its rich and ever-evolving national character.

Our Roots is a gateway to Canada’s past. Tales to be discovered include those of the Irish at Grosse Isle, the American Invasion of 1775, the Klondike Gold Rush, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canada’s historic forts and trading posts, the Canadian Anti-Slavery Baptist Association, Aboriginal communities, political and local scandals, ship building in Moncton, and the Sackville telephone exchange. Looking for information is made easy when you search the site using key words, dates, subjects or authors.

Our Roots provides universal access to unique materials concerning the cultural and social heritage of our nation. Written by Canadians, for Canadians, these local histories represent this nation’s history from the perspective of those who helped shape it. Now available in digital format, these resources are not only accessible from anywhere via the world wide web, but are also preserved for future generations of students, teachers and researchers.

This online collection allows students of any age to search and browse through historical material in a manner that is truly revolutionary: research is accelerated in terms of time and access to information. Already, the availability of this wealth of research material is heralding a new interest in Canadian history at all levels, as well as a celebration of our rich past.

Through the collaboration of nation-wide libraries, universities, colleges, archives, historical associations, businesses and individuals, Our Roots promises to develop into the most comprehensive collection of Canadian local histories ever.



  • Canadian Culture Online Program
  • Université Laval
  • University of Calgary
  • University of Toronto
  • Dalhousie University
  • Galileo Educational Network
  • Calgary Exhibition & Stampede
  • iXmédia
  • Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries/Initiative canadienne sur les bibliothèques numériques

We would like to thank the following institutions for their support and generous contributions to Our Roots:

  • Simon Fraser University
  • University of Victoria
  • Alberta Online Consortium
  • Bibliothèque de l'Assemblée nationale du Québec
  • Bibliothèque nationale du Québec
  • Bibliothèque Paul-Émile-Boulet
  • Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
  • British Columbia Archives
  • Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions/Institut canadien de microreproductions historiques
  • Centre d'études acadiennes
  • Université de Moncton
  • Institut canadien de Québec
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Library and Archives Canada/Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
  • Parcs Canada
  • Saskatchewan Provincial Library
  • University of Manitoba Libraries
  • University of Saskatchewan Library
  • University of Winnipeg Library
  • Vancouver Public Library

Our Roots : Canada’s Local Histories Online is made possible with the support of Canadian Heritage through the Canadian Culture Online Strategy and the support of partner institutions across Canada


Editorial Board

An Editorial Board has been established to address content issues, to identify digitization priorities, and to advise on the order of items to be digitized. The Board includes historical scholars from across Canada and one representative each from the National Library of Canada, the Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries (CIDL), and the Canadian Institute for Historical Micro Reproductions (CIHM). The Board was formed through the cooperative efforts of CIDL members from Laval, the University of Calgary, and the CIDL the Steering Committee.

The site has been placed under the Imprints of the University of Calgary Press and Laval University Library to clearly demonstrate the involvement of an Editorial Board in vetting content and addressing content-related issues. The Editorial Board is approved by the UC Press Editorial Board.

National Editorial Board Members

  • Dr. Ann Davis, Acting Director, Information Resources, University of Calgary, Co-Chair
  • Mme Silvie Delorme, Director, Laval University Library, Co-Chair

A complete member listing of the Our Roots Editorial Board will be available online in fall 2006.


Totality: To establish academic rigor and credibility of the site content, only entire collections will be digitized. The site content will not be 'selected', e.g., some items will not be chosen over others by project participants as being more important to clientele.

The concept of totality assures an academic researcher that no material has been purposely left off of the site. While each local history may not be regarded as verifiably factual, taken as a whole collection, a student or researcher will be introduced to personal stories, opinions and event accounts that they would not be able to find elsewhere. In terms of Canadian research, the whole, in this case, may be greater than the sum of its parts. The only reasons that a known item will not be included on the site are that a copy cannot be located or because copyright permission to digitize cannot be obtained.

The Our Roots web site will be as transparent as possible. It will be made clear to clients using the site which organizations were involved in creating the site, and why content or collections were placed on the web site. While each partner and node may have a stand-alone site containing the items they have digitized, all items will be placed on a centralized Our Roots site to ensure coherence of the site in terms of look and feel, as well as technical and operating standards. This central site will list all partners, nodes and funders.

Partners and nodes are required to agree in writing to follow the Editorial and Technical Standards and Policies set by the Editorial Board, the Technical Advisory Group and the lead institutions. If nodes and partners do not follow these standards, they may forfeit their right to funding and their inclusion in this project. Decisions regarding policies and standards and whether or not they have been met will be made by the Our Roots Editorial Board in consultation with the CIDL Steering Committee and the Technology Committee.


  • Project will strive to create the most comprehensive collection of Canadian local histories possible.
  • Content will be reviewed and vetted by an Editorial Board.
  • The content policies will be clearly explained on the web site.
  • No item is digitized without written consent of the copyright holder unless the item resides within the public domain. The cleanest copy of each item available is digitized. If marginalia is present, it will be digitized as well.
  • All local history pages within a book, even those that are blank, are digitized to ensure clients know that nothing has been left out or edited.
  • Page edges will be digitized to ensure clients know that nothing has been left out or edited.
  • Local histories included in this project are those that have been published or reproduced in print previously.



Copyright clearance is required for every item placed on the site with the exception of those local histories in the public domain.


Technical Standards

Our Roots employs standards consistent with academic and industry practice for digitization of paper documents. The industry standard TIFF format with LZW compression is used for high-quality archival digital images. Documents are scanned at original size at 300 dpi in 8-bit greyscale mode to preserve as much of the original document information as possible. When documents are in colour, 24-bit RGB scans are made.

As the chosen standard for archiving generates large files, Our Roots uses 4 sizes to provide on-line delivery to the user: a 200x200 pixel thumbnail for quick reference, and three sizes (600 pixels high, 768 pixels high and 1000 pixels high) for more detailed examination and usage. On-line delivery files are created as JPG images at a medium compression level, balancing onscreen quality with overall size of download.

Our Roots uses a modified Dublin Core record as the basis of its descriptive metadata. The project has benefited from the work already done by librarians in the item-level cataloguing of the books that Our Roots has digitized. Where available, descriptive metadata is drawn from library catalogues such as the National Library of Canada, the University of Calgary library and the Laval University Library. Items without existing records are catalogued by trained cataloguers following AACR2 rules.

Each item in Our Roots has an index page that provides an interactive table of contents to that volume. A Dublin Core header will be added to each of these index pages to provide harvesting of each individual volume.

In addition to the descriptive metadata, administrative and structural metadata are also added to each item-record. Plans are in progress to standardize the overall record on the Library of Congress METS standard for encoding metadata.

One of the guiding principles for Our Roots is to provide a simple interface to the resources. Complex client-side scripting and the usage of plug-ins is avoided where possible. Pages are created using standard HTML 4.0 code. The majority of the scripting and validation occurs at the server level.

Web Site Auditing and Evaluation

Complete logs of server activity are maintained by Our Roots.

Programming and Scripting Languages

Currently, Our Roots employs Active Server Pages 3.0 for its server side scripting. Cookies have been avoided in the past over concerns of privacy and lack of support at the client side (whether by choice or because of incompatible clients).

Preservation and Records Management

Our Roots currently uses CD-R technology to store digital files for long term storage and employs only standard file formats (TIFF, JPEG, HTML) that are open and non-proprietary for all of its work. CD-Rs are written using standard ISO-9660 format to ensure maximum compatibility.

The general principles that Our Roots employ to ensure long term access to the media is to create CRC-32 values for individual files and to do spot checks on the media on a regular basis. Duplicate copies of media are made to store with one on-site and one off-site copy. In addition to backing up the database information separately, Our Roots plans to save the meta data with the files in XML format once the template has been developed.

Copyright 2006 University of Calgary, Université Laval logos Canadian Initiative on Digital Libraries University of Calgary Canadian Heritage Université Laval Government of Canada