Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, & Library and Archives Canada
“Bronson approached collaborating with the TRC with a hope to provide efforts to organize and review archived documents to deposit them in a database.”
Bronson created a permanent digital archive of historical records related to the Indian Residential School (IRS) system for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC). It is estimated to be the largest single digital repository compiled in Canadian history, with over 10.6 million pages reviewed, and the secure transmission and storage of over 5 million documents.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a component of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the largest class-action settlement in Canadian history. It was set up to inform Canadians about what happened in Indian Residential schools and to document the stories and experiences of individuals directly affected by the residential schools system.
In February 2011, the Commission retained Bronson to assist in collecting and digitizing all relevant documents from church and government holdings and to develop a fully functional and secure database. As part of the project, Bronson would deploy a team of historical researchers to review and audit the holdings of the various parties to the Settlement Agreement and would provide the technical resources to digitize the entire collection.
Researchers would have to sift through the records of at least eighty-eight church archives and thirty or more government institutions. In addition, the creation of a comprehensive searchable database would require the collection of relevant records held by organizations and individuals other than Canada and the churches, such as museums, provincial and university archives, and cultural and Aboriginal research centres.
Our Solution and Outcome
To meet the unique challenges of this project, Bronson created multidisciplinary teams of experts and deployed them simultaneously at multiple archive sites across Canada. These teams included researchers to identify, review, provide metadata tagging, and report on all relevant documents, and experts in archival digitization. The digitization effort involved the electronic conversion of material that existed in a host of formats, including photographs, glass-plate negatives, film, video, onionskin paper, cut-sheet paper, and microfilm.
All protocols, standards, and the database environment were custom tailored for this complex project. The database itself provides state-of-the-art backup and secure storage, while delivering sophisticated search-and-report functions and multi-media capacity. All to stringent Federal Government security and privacy standards.
The work was carried out at Bronson team secure facilities, church archives, and relevant stakeholder offices. Considerable effort was also undertaken simultaneously at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) document storage locations. Long-term work at LAC involved close integration of project processes with LAC collection, preservation, and circulation regimes.
In all, over 10.6 million documents were reviewed by Bronson researchers and nearly 4 million records were digitized and deposited in the database. The collected database currently holds some 5 million searchable documents.
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