Archival centers, CL work together to complete digitizing project
by Connie Faber
Thanks to a conversation in 2011 between Canadian archivist Conrad Stoesz (left) and Peggy Goertzen, (below right) director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS) Hillsboro, while riding a ferry to Vancouver Island, BC, a searchable digital collection of 79 years of the Christian Leader is being released this summer by CMBS-Hillsboro, CMBS-Winnipeg and the Christian Leader.
“Face to face conversation that includes non-scheduled meeting time can produce some very creative results,” says Stoesz about that ferry ride to a MB Historical Commission meeting in Victoria, BC. Stoesz is the CMBS-Winnipeg archivist.
“Conrad’s offer seemed like a novel and progressive idea,” says Goertzen, who considers Stoesz a front-runner in innovations in collecting and storing MB historical documents. “The idea was exciting,” she says.
And with that rather informal exchange, the five-year process of digitizing the CL began.
Since the first step was cutting off the magazine binding so that the pages could be scanned and saved to a portable document format (PDF), locating “extra” copies of the magazine was a priority. CMBS-Winnipeg donated back issues in its archives and Goertzen began searching for the rest.
“The trick was finding a set (of CL magazines) that could be ‘destroyed’ so that it could be scanned,” recalls Goertzen.
Goertzen contacted individuals she knew who had CL collections and credits Mary Loewen of Hillsboro, Kan., with providing a significant number of the needed magazines. “She had boxes and boxes in her closet,” says Goertzen. Raymond Wiebe, also of Hillsboro, also contributed a considerable collection.
CL editor Connie Faber hunted for extra issues within the CL office collection of back issues. When the copies needed for the project were narrowed down to specific issues of the publication, Faber ran ads in the magazine asking readers to check their personal collections.
“It was time consuming to find the back issues we needed for this project and at times, because of on-going publishing deadines and projects, I pushed the search to the back burner,” says Faber. “I very much appreciated Conrad’s encouragement and then Jon Isaak’s reminders to keep moving forward.”
Isaak was hired as the CMBS-Winnipeg director in late 2011, and by the end of 2012 had picked-up Stoesz’s work digitizing the CL.
“There was no special funding for this project,” says Isaak in an email interview. CMBS Winnipeg is funded by the Canadian Conference of MB Churches (CCMBC). “It was simply part of the services that CMBS-Winnipeg offered the constituency.
“We had salaried time, we had volunteers, we had technical interests and we had vision. All of this came together for this project,” says Isaak.
Faber says, “Thanks to Conrad and Jon and the support CMBS-Winnipeg receives from the Canadian Conference, this project is now complete.”
A searchable, digital collection of 79 years of the Christian Leader, the award-winning magazine for U.S. Mennonite Brethren, will be available Aug. 1.
CMBS-Hillsboro and the CL tracked down back issues of the CL to be digitized but Canadian Conference staff were responsible for the huge task of turning print copies into a digital resource.