About the Project
Since its inception in June of 2011, Sask History Online (SHO) has developed into the most diverse resource about Saskatchewan history and culture available online. With well over 100,000 records from over 60 information providers, the project has become an invaluable asset to both users and information providers alike. It all started in 2011 when a memorandum of agreement between the University Library, University of Saskatchewan and the Ministry of Education in 2011, outlined the project’s intent to “identify, preserve and provide access to” a variety of records, documents and artifacts held by Saskatchewan institutions. To this end, the success of the project has depended on 3 foundational elements: technological infrastructure, content, and usability.
One of the challenges to increasing the amount of digital content from cultural heritage organizations across the province is the complexity and cost of systems used to store and make digital content available. SHO has implemented and developed a simple yet powerful and scalable technological infrastructure for all contributors to the project. The infrastructure includes elements that enable users to search and interact with content and for contributors to store, describe, and preserve digital content. Modules, forms, workflows, best practices, and guidelines have been developed during the project in order to provide the province with a system capable of handling a wide range of needs. Additionally, the purchase of specialized scanning equipment provides the province with an indispensible technological infrastructure from which to build a digitization program in the years to come.
Saskatchewan’s unique and diverse cultural assets are also among the world’s most isolated and geographically dispersed for a digital initiative such as this. Along with content from libraries and archives, museums across Saskatchewan have been keen to contribute materials. This content, along with items from private collectors, historical societies and other information providers, make SHO the most diverse source of Saskatchewan related digitized cultural heritage content anywhere. Collaborative relationships developed through workshops, site visits, conference talks, and joint projects during time this have the potential to generate vast amounts of digital content well into the future.
Visitors to SHO are able to effectively search content through a search box and map interface, explore various digital exhibits, and create their own collections via the SHOcase feature. Usability testing has been done to ensure users are able to effectively navigate the system and explore the many resources within.
We have worked hard to ensure the three years of the funding have been well spent. We feel we have succeeded in providing opportunities to make more Saskatchewan cultural heritage content available online and have provided a foundation from which organizations can build successful digitization programs in the years to come. Consequently we know users have benefited from a significant increase in available digital content and the new ways of interacting and engaging with it.