The Scottish Studies Foundation
Digital Archive Project
at the University of Guelph

Sample page and woodcut image from
"The Gentle Shepherd,"
by Scots poet Allan Ramsay
Published by the Foulis Press in 1796.

As part of the University of Guelph's library renovation program, the Foundation has agreed to fund the installation of a digital archive centre, which as well as being available to the University as a whole, will allow the library's unique collection of rare and unique Scottish books and manuscripts to be digitized and placed online. So far we have been successful in raising almost $95,000 of the $150,000 needed to complete our part of the project.

You can contribute, either online by clicking on the PayPal button below, or by mail using our donation form which you can access here. All donations, large or small, will be graciously received and greatly appreciated.

The University of Guelph's Scottish collection is one of the finest in the world and the riches of the collection frequently surprise even its own custodians. This collection is comprised of rare books, manuscripts, and archival materials on a wide variety of topics. The oldest item is a letter written on December 16, 1416 from Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, naming David Menzies governor of his lands, rents, possessions, and goods in Orkney. The newest is a pamphlet on the Scottish Referendum of 2014. The collection strengths include chapbooks from the 18th and 19th centuries, over half of the publications printed by the distinguished Foulis Press, a comprehensive collection of the works of John Galt, Jacobite pamphlets, genealogy and local history, emigration and settlement, philosophy and religion, tourism, and Scottish-Canadian history.

Guelph's interest in building both a Scottish and a Scottish-Canadian collection began 50 years ago, shortly after the creation of the History Department in 1965, the same year the University of Guelph was established. Over the years, the Library has amassed a collection of rare Scottish books, manuscripts and archival resources which is now the largest outside the U.K.

In addition, the local history collection is unique in North America for its completeness, numbering in excess of three thousand items containing valuable genealogical and local history materials. And for those tracing their Scottish ancestry, there are many useful circulating handbooks as well as a large collection of family histories in Guelph's circulating collections.

Clearly though, not everyone can get to these world-class archives in person, so the digitization project will make them available online by means of a few clicks. The first books available on the Internet Archives and the Scottish Chapbook project are now available to read in PDF, ePUB and Kindle formats.

As time passes and special collections archival materials, including rare books, manuscripts, archives, and ephemera become ever more threatened by age, major and minor depositories alike are now using digitization in order to make accessible and preserve their most popular and most fragile holdings to scholars, students, k-12 teachers, genealogists and the general public worldwide.

Accordingly, the Foundation realizes it is crucial that Guelph's Scottish materials be digitized as part of a planned process of on-going preservation and that these materials be accessible to current and future generations of Canadian Scots and to all those interested in Canadian-Scottish culture.

A diaspora, within many of the various definitions of that term, is fundamentally a dispersed group. Communities and enclaves may form, towns and universities may be established by ethnic migrants working and acting as one, yet fundamentally a diaspora is about people who are mobile, who have left their native land and whose children grow up to become transnational adults, equally rootless and rooted at the same time. Digitization brings these people and historic materials together.

There are now more adherents to Facebook than lived on the planet when much of this archive was formed, and scholars and students often begin their research inquiries through search engines such as Google. Digitization is the technology that is ideally suited to a diaspora, connecting the unconnected, bridging geographical distance just as the archive spans temporal distance.

Just as genealogy has been transformed, first by the microfilm reel and then by the digitization of census records, so the Scottish-Canadian heritage will only prosper if its written heritage is made accessible to all.

Thank you for your support.

David Hunter
Scottish Studies Foundation

Note that the Foundation's interest in this project was initially triggered by the opportunity to digitize the University of Guelph's unique Scottish collection but the project now encompasses all major items in the library's Archival and Special Collections Department details of which can be seen here: digital-archive-project-special-collections.htm