Centuries-old Halifax city council minutes go digital

HALIFAX – Halifax council minutes dating back to pre-Confederation times will soon be available to read and search online thanks to an effort by the city to digitize its municipal records.

The slow process involves scanning 50,000 pages of text and microfilm, but once it’s done, searches will be faster, easier and accessible to a wider audience.

In the past, genealogists, historians and even the city’s own staff have had to make formal requests to scour the archives.

MORE INFO: Read and search Halifax’s archive of digital documents

“We would actually have to physically go through each page looking for information for them,” said Angela Smith, Halifax’s manager of corporate information management.

“Now with digitizing and the optical character recognition, we can do digital searches.”

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One of the old texts dates back to 1841 and includes one of the first resolutions enacted by Halifax city council.

The city’s first mayor Stephen Binney signed resolutions outlining the roles of each alderman.

Brett Ruskin / Global News.

The leather-bound books will be shipped to Ontario for processing. City staff say three companies submitted bids to do the work, including one firm based in Dartmouth.

In the end, Markham, Ont.-based MES Hybrid Document Systems scored highest.

Much of the City of Dartmouth’s council minutes are online, and archivists say Halifax’s full history of council minutes (from 1841 to present) should be online by March 2015.

“We’ve had a lot of feedback from researchers, from internal folks at HRM at how nice it is to do a keyword search,” said Smith.

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“They don’t need a paper copy, they can just read it right there at their desktop.”

Minutes from one of Halifax city council's first meeting (in 1841) will soon be digitized. Brett Ruskin / Global News

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