Wednesday, November 5, 2014

UNF Digital Knowledge Project

From century-old illustrated versions of Taras Shevchenko’s Гайдамаки, to soviet-era encyclopedias, співаники from Saskatchewan, and all of your favourite Ukrainian school textbooks, thanks to the UNF Digital Knowledge Project, you will soon be able to enjoy browsing these and many other interesting pieces of (searchable!) Ukrainian Canadian history online and at your convenience.

Why is this happening?

At a time when the topic of the Ukrainian identity has never been more pronounced, the UNF Toronto Branch has just recently opened the doors of its new archive - a collection of almost 17,000 books (or 1.7 million pages!) of Ukrainian and Ukrainian Canadian history, politics, reference materials, periodicals, and many rare and low-circulation volumes that may further craft the idea what it means to be a Ukrainian in Canada. 

Read more about the project’s goals here.

So what is the plan?

Recently, the branch has begun a year-long process of digitizing each and every single page of their collection with a rather fancy (and expensive) Digitization machine. Once the Toronto Branch completes their collection, they will also be scanning the entirety of available UNF archives from collections in Montreal, Edmonton, Sudbury, Hamilton, Regina and Winnipeg - some of which go back to the 1800s! Following the completion of the UNF collection (estimated to be the end of 2015), the facility and machine will become available for use by other Ukrainian-Canadian organizations who wish to digitize their materials, at a miniscule fraction of the cost that other comparable services would demand.

So how does it work?

In my visit to the archive, I of course demanded a demonstration of this $100,000 piece of robotic wonder, and it was pretty cool! Using a complex set of weights, rulers, robotic arms, air nozzles and a high-definition camera, the machine delicately flips the pages of a book and captures a high-definition photo of each spread.

Then, UNF digital librarian Andrew Steventon uses photoshop and advanced Optical Character Recognition software to correct and catalog each page. Tags are added and the book is then uploaded to the digital library.

When can I get my eyes on all this cool stuff?

The physical library space is open 3 days a week, Monday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 5-9PM, and the digital library will become available to the public by the end of 2015.

The undertaking of such a project is unfortunately not cheap; and while sponsors have certainly helped alleviate the some of burden of the purchase of the technology, maintenance, and digitization of the project, further financial support is needed to ensure this significant project is completed as scheduled.

There are three ways to donate now, and unique sponsorship packages, including sponsorships of sections, books, and special collections will become available soon.

How to Donate!
1) Go Fund Me, online Fundraising Campaign. You can donate online, safely and securely through This is the fastest way to ensure your funds reach the UNF in time.
2) Donate to the UNF Foundation. You can click here for information on making a donation to the UNF Foundation either online or via regular mail.
3) Donate at your local branch of the Ukrainian Credit Union Ltd. Visit your local teller and ask to make a donation directly to the initiative.

So whether you’re trying to remember the names of the 5 неоромантики (or were there 6?), or find out what your Dido said at the UNF meeting in 1972, with your assistance and support, soon you will be able to search and find the answers you are looking for!

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