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Bringing the past into the future

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Bringing the past into the future is precisely what the Digital Collection team is doing at the Fort Frances Times.

By the end of August, the three-person team, led by Christine Siemiernik, plans to have a web page on the Internet with 100 of the top stories from the past 100 years of the Rainy River District.

Siemiernik, 21, originally from Woodstock, Ont., was introduced to Times publisher Jim Cumming back in April at the annual Ontario Community Newspapers Association convention in Toronto, where she received several awards for her journalism work.

Having attended Humber College in Toronto for three years with a degree in journalism, Siemiernik was ready to take on the challenge when Cumming asked if she would be interested in heading the web page project here in Fort Frances.

By the middle of June, Siemiernik was settled in here and looking forward to the task of designing the 150 pages for the Internet.

“There is a lot of opportunity in this field. You have to be willing to go where the job is,” she remarked.

Siemiernik admitted this is a new experience for her, and new for the area, but the idea of a community history web page certainly isn’t. She believes there’s a group starting these projects every three months through the assistance of organizations such as Industry Canada and SchoolNet.

“The greatest challenge is the computer system," said Siemiernik. "There are a lot of technical problems.”

Still, Siemiernik added she’s amazed at how much patience she has been displaying. And fortunately, there are two other team members on hand to help alleviate the workload.

It was up to Siemiernik, with the help of Cumming, to find two other students to help get the project underway. By the end of June, Lauren McCoy, 17, and Chris Cooper, 16, both of here, were hired after being interviewed.

McCoy had done a co-op placement at the Times during her senior year at Fort High, where she learned scanning procedures and Macintosh computer knowledge.

McCoy noted she really enjoys the artistic side of the web page but does get frustrated with technical problems.

Fortunately, Cooper complements the team with his computer know-how, having made his own personal web page just days after learning the procedure in computer class at school. With a desire to be a computer engineer, he enjoys the atmosphere he works in.

Both McCoy and Cooper are working on the second floor of the Northern Lights Credit Union, where much research and graphic designs are done, while Siemiernik also works out of the Times office.

All three have been researching old issues of the Times which date back to the late 1800s, as well as the Chapple history book, the Rainy River Record, the local museum, and the Tenner collection, which includes photographs from the turn of the century.

After the 100 stories and pictures are selected, they’ll be scanned into the computer and neatly organized to produce the 150 informative web pages of the district.

This web page is targeted for students in elementary school, as well as those in university, who can easily access the information about the district’s past from school, in libraries, or homes, or around the world.

This can be quite a challenge since the crew does have a set schedule with Industry Canada, which is guiding the work of the project.

“Industry Canada standard pictures can only be so big and the graphics take a long time to load,” said Siemiernik.

But they all keep toiling away inside in the summer heat, knowing the positive affect this web page will have for all those who access it.

McCoy brought up the fact that decades worth of newsprint have been lost due to fires in the district but this program will prevent that from happening in the future.

All three agree their computer and district knowledge have expanded greatly since beginning this project. They’re learning as they go, taking this new-found knowledge with them for the future.

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