It was a bittersweet cover. Alongside a headline that reported joyful crowds greeting Pope John Paul II on his arrival as the first pope to visit Canada, there was also sombre coverage of the funeral of Toronto Archbishop Philip Pocock.
The newspaper reported that the Pope was cheered by thousands of flag-waving adults and children who lined the streets while church bells rang out across Quebec City. In Toronto, meanwhile, Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter celebrated a funeral Mass attended by many of Canada’s Church and political elite in a packed St. Michael’s Cathedral, where “a solemn crowd stood in the aisles and against the walls after all the seats had filled.”
Those stories from almost 33 years ago are just two samples of history that can now be revisited online in The Catholic Register Archive.
After many months of preparation, the first phase of the historical archive was officially launched on April 19. It comprises every issue of the paper since January 1951. That’s 66 years of history from more than 3,000 issues.
And that’s just the beginning. Work will soon be underway to digitize and archive the first 58 years of The Register going back to the debut edition on Jan. 5, 1893.
“We’re delighted that after so much effort by so many people we are finally able to welcome the public into our archive,” said Jim O’Leary, The Register’s publisher and editor. “We’ve been sitting on a treasure of Canadian Church history, so it feels great to be able to share it with the rest of the country.”
The archive is formatted as images of entire pages that have been scanned and posted as pdf files. They have been loaded into a web site behind a search engine that permits readers to explore by keyword or by date.
The Archive is accessible through The Register’s web site (www.catholicregister.org), which means it is available wherever there is connection to the Internet.
Entering the archive requires a subscription to The Catholic Register Digital Edition, which starts at $9.99 for three months. For readers already subscribing to the digital edition, the archive comes at no extra charge.
“Although people like to get many of their online products for free, we believe $9.99 is very good value,” O’Leary said. “There are considerable expenses to create and maintain an online archive, so a small subscription fee helps to cover our costs.”
The cost to create the archive so far has come entirely from donations to the Forward in Faith fundraising campaign. The campaign launched last November with a $35,000 matching gift from an anonymous donor. It is still climbing towards its $70,000 goal.
The pages of the digital archive were created by scanning old rolls of microfiche. In recent months, the microfiche rolls were run through a scanner to create digital images, which were then converted into pdf files. The finished page is not always perfect because, in some cases, the original microfiche was either created improperly or was in poor condition.
So there is still a lengthy process ahead to review every page and see what improvements can be made. As well, the first 58 years of Catholic Register history still must digitized.
“It took 125 years to get to this point,” O’Leary said. “We’re still just getting started.”