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How Coquitlam is sharing its past online

Coquitlam archivist Emily Lonie spoke to council-in-committee on Feb. 8, 2021, about last year's activities and how the coronavirus pandemic impacted her team's digitization and preservation work.

Historical photos and records printed on paper continue to be digitized by Coquitlam Archives.

But how does the city capture electronic images and materials — and obtain copyright permissions — so future generations can learn about what’s happened in the past 15 years?

Those are some of the questions facing Coquitlam archivist Emily Lonie, who on Monday gave her annual report to council-in-committee about how her team fared during the pandemic. She also spoke about donations they received, and new technology formats they’re working with.

In her overview, Lonie talked about how she’s scouring the internet and social media channels that pertain to Coquitlam’s past and family histories, to potentially add to the city fonds.

Over the past year, when her office — located in same building as the City Centre library branch — closed to the public, Lonie said she, Leah Rae and Andréa Tarnawsky were busy digitalizing hundreds of images from the Riverview Hospital Historical Society, which were put online, along with a large collection of images and files from the city planning and development department.

They also scanned photos and speeches related to the former reeve R.C. MacDonald, and kept up the online preservation of nearly 400 microfilm reels from the city clerk’s office, and minutes.

As well, four online exhibits were posted in 2020 to spotlight Riverview as well as heritage home research and photograph conservation. And Archives took in several donations including from:

• Hoy/Scott Creek Watershed Society: administrative records, reports and photographs documenting the group’s activities and hatchery operations 

• Tri-City News: 88 more volumes of bound newspapers, from 2001-’18, following the business’ move from PoCo at the end of last year; Archives now has 133 bound volumes from 1990 

• Burquitlam Community Association: an addition to its collection including minutes, newsletters, correspondence, program records and photos 

• Irene McMillan: Two original photographs from 1910-’12 of the Coquitlam Football Club 

• City of Coquitlam: annual reports, leisure guides and newsletters 

• Edmund and Garry May Colchester: research collection on early domestic building in B.C. including material — i.e., photos, maps, reports — related to Maillardville and Fraser Mills

• Lillian Touzeau: Records as a nurse at the Provincial Mental Hospital at Essondale

• Northeast Coquitlam Ratepayers’ Association: an album with colour photos showing events and Burke Mountain from 1992 to 2003 as well as speech notes and meeting minutes

Having such documents put online for the public to view and for researchers to investigate is having an impact, Lonie said, noting its Quest portal traffic shot up by 38% over the past year.

Meanwhile, this year, Coquitlam Archives will continue to exhibit a show that went up before the pandemic lockdown. 

Titled Early Days: Views Compiled by the Canadian Pacific Railway 1912-1914, the display includes 10 images from an album created by CP Rail to show the construction of the new operating terminus in what was then the corporation of the district of Coquitlam — now known as Port Coquitlam. 

The images are on the walls of the office, which is open Tuesday to Thursday from noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment. Call 604-927-3900 or email [email protected] to book a time or to donate historical records about Coquitlam.