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About Democracy at War

Democracy at War: Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War is a fully searchable digitized collection of 144,000 contemporary newspaper clippings that report on the events of the Second World War as that great conflict unfolded. ( see The Hamilton Spectator and Its Archive )

To meet the needs of as wide an audience as possible, the Canadian War Museum has created fifty-five short historical articles on some of the key subjects covered in the digitized archive. These articles include the main facts and, so far as is possible within limited space, the main conclusions of historical research and analysis that has taken place since the Second World War.

At the end of each article is a selection of links to actual newspaper clippings on the subject in the archive. These sample clippings enable readers to see how the "eyewitness" and "at the moment" accounts in the clippings add colour and depth to the modern "historical record." At the same time, readers can see how the accounts in the clippings may lack the analysis and context the becomes possible over time as governments release further information and individuals publish their private reflections and experiences.

The Web Site Project: Background

The Hamilton Spectator archive that the Department of National Defence transferred to the Canadian War Museum in 1999 consists of over 218 20-centimetre archival boxes. These contain over 12 405 subject files within each of which the clippings on that subject are arranged in chronological order.

The archive had been a valuable tool for Government of Canada historians, and for researchers who could come to Ottawa, for over fifty years. Its great value lay in the fact that most newspapers for the Second World War period do not have a subject index, and the newspapers themselves are available only on microfilm. The alternative to use of the archive therefore is to do extensive preliminary research into the range of dates on which the subject might have been covered, and then spend a great deal of time reading through whole issues of newspapers on microfilm for those dates, seeking articles on the subject. The microfilm version of most newspapers is available only in major research libraries that are located only in major cities, and microfilm is not a pleasant medium with which to work.

The Web Site Project: Challenges

The Canadian War Museum, as part of its core mandate, wished to make the Hamilton Spectator archive as widely available as possible. But this was difficult to achieve. The sheer volume of material requires a large public access library space, and the archive must be supported by expert staff in order the preserve the collection and make it usable. The subject headings, generated as events unfolded and arranged according to the pressing needs of working journalists, are in many cases useless to a modern reader. Terminology has changed, and many very specific subjects, into which the clippings are organized, have since 1945 been grouped under larger headings. All these difficulties aside, the newsprint itself, and the thin mounting pages to which the clippings were glued, have begun to deteriorate physically.

The Web Site Project: Opportunities

Presentation of the archive in a reader-friendly format on the web was the answer to these challenges, and would meet all aspects of the Canadian War Museum mandate, "To Remember, to preserve, to educate." The web project became possible in 2001 with a grant from the Canadian Digital Cultural Content Initiative of the Canadian Memory Fund, a programme of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

This funding provided for the augmentation of the resources of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, of which the war museum forms a part, to create the team with the wide range of expertise needed to realize the project: librarians, archivists, historians, web-designers, data systems managers, and experts in state-of-the art digitization.

The Canadian War Museum acknowledges the participation of the following individuals:

Project Directors:

  • Dr. Roger Sarty
  • Mr. Gordon Butler
  • Project Management :

  • Mr. Tom Lowe, InBusiness
  • Mr. Bruce Watkinson
  • Research, Writing and Editing :

  • Professor Norman Hillmer, Carleton University
  • Mr. Owen A. Cooke
  • Project Coordinator :

  • Ms. Jane Naisbitt
  • Image Archives :

  • Ms. Maggie Arbour-Doucette
  • Mr. Dennis Fletcher
  • Digitization :

  • Arimtec International inc.
  • Webmaster, Copy Editor and Content Coordinator :

  • Mr. Jérôme Foldes-Busque
  • Website Development :

  • Imatics Inc.
  • Database and Search Engine Development :

  • KE Software
  • Translation

  • Mr. Christian Bérubé
  • Lexi-tech International

  • Additional Copyright Information

    Acknowledgements for newspaper articles included in the Democracy at War : Canadian Newspapers and the Second World War website:

  • © Canadian Press. Reproduced with the permission of the Canadian Press.
  • © Canadian Business. Reproduced with the permission of Canadian Business.
  • © The Financial Post. reproduced with the permission of The National Post.
  • © The Globe and Mail. reproduced with the permission of The Globe and Mail.
  • © The Hamilton Spectator. Reproduced with the permission of The Hamilton Spectator.
  • © The New York Times. Reproduced with the permission of The New York Times.
  • © The Ottawa Citizen. Reproduced with the permission The Ottawa Citizen.
  • © The Toronto Star. Reproduced with the permission of The Toronto Star.
  • © The Toronto Telegram. Reproduced with the permission of York University, Archives Division.
  • © The Vancouver Sun. Reproduced courtesy of The Vancouver Sun.
  • © The Winnipeg Tribune. Reproduced with the permission of Manitoba University, Archives and Special Collections.
  • © The Christian Science Monitor. Reproduced with the permission of The Christian Science Monitor.
  • The Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation respects the provision of the Canadian Copyright Act. Every reasonable effort has been made to locate copyright owners. If you identify yourself as the copyright owner of material on this website and object to its continued availability online, please contact Jane Naisbitt at jane.naisbitt@warmuseum.ca .


    Direct inquiries and feedback to : webmaster@warmuseum.ca


        Date created: September 19, 2003 | Last updated: October 22, 2009