Ferguson Foundation launches ‘long overdue’ digital repository

By Jesse Robitaille

The J. Douglas Ferguson Historical Research Foundation has launched a first-of-its-kind online repository of Canadian numismatic resources offering a freely accessible digital archive for researchers.

The website, dubbed Canadian Numismatic Resources (CNR), is available at cnr-rnc.ca. Its creators hope the CNR will soon serve as the most complete resource of Canadian numismatic documents with at least 20,000 pages of digitized material added each year. As of mid-January, the website holds more than 10,000 pages of original sources, including numismatic periodicals, club journals, catalogues, price lists plus government and archival records.

“To have a digital repository of Canadian numismatic resources is long overdue and is in keeping with trends in other disciplines of providing digital content of historic and otherwise inaccessible documents to experts and the general public,” said Ferguson Foundation Secretary David Bergeron, of Ottawa, who spearheaded the CNR project. “In fact, such a project is an important contribution to the development and longevity of the discipline and hobby.”

While the website is bilingual, the documents are only presented in their original language, and most of them are fully searchable thanks to the optical character recognition feature used to digitize the material. Most of the documents are out of print and in the public domain, according to Ferguson Foundation officials, who received permission to republish any copyright-protected material.

“Without impinging of copyright laws, the CNR website’s mission is to digitize and make available to all Internet users Canadian numismatic content that is otherwise obsolete, out of print or not readily accessible through libraries or other public institutions,” said Bergeron, who’s also the lead curator of the Bank of Canada’s National Currency Collection.

While some content may already be found on other online resources, including the U.S.-based Newman Numismatic Portal, Bergeron believes most of the CNR material “will be new and previously unrecorded in digital form.”

“Digital content allows researchers from other disciplines to cross into the world of numismatics to expand their knowledge and grow the body of research on anything related to money and numismatics,” he added. “The point of the website is to make available to Internet users almost all literature and documentation that exists on Canadian numismatics, especially the pre-digital content in printed form, of which, for many, a large proportion is completely inaccessible because it is in institutional or private collections, or because it is rare and extremely fragile and therefore unavailable for consultation.”

In addition to increasing collectors’ access to these resources, the CNR will also provide other non-numismatic researchers with an opportunity to “expand their work” through the hobby’s historical documents, Bergeron added.

“There’s a tendency to think that numismatic works are exclusively for the use of people in the hobby. But the point of digitizing and making these documents available to the general public free of charge is to go beyond the realms of numismatics and expand the interests and curiosity of the seasoned academician as much as those of the casual browser. I hope that interest in the website will create traffic and eventually encourage visitors and users to either contribute content to the website or make donations to expand the human resources required to create more content.”

While the website is free to access, the Ferguson Foundation has asked collectors to contribute original non-copyrighted documents or make a financial donation to support the CNR. Specifically, the committee overseeing the digitization project has recently solicited several collectors to provide access to their numismatic libraries.

For more information about contributing material, contact the CNR webmaster at webmaster@cnr-rnc.ca.

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