2017-2020 Digitizing Project Update

Apr 2, 2020

The Federated Women’s Institutes of Ontario have completed our three-year project through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program of Library and Archives Canada! During this time 225,000 pages have been digitized and added to our Virtual Archives; most being our Tweedsmuir Community History Collections.

These collections, with many starting in 1947, contain the history of a local community and can include farm and family histories, biographies, and photos.

Books from as far north as Cochrane in the north east and Kenora in the north west, down to beyond London in southwestern Ontario, the Ottawa Valley in the east, and many books in between were brought to a central digitizing site and then returned. Some books were found that we were not aware of and one book was saved from destruction.

While the original documents remain locally across Ontario, the digitized documents are now together in one location, with visitors from around the world viewing them. We have fostered positive relationships with archives, museums, libraries, and historical societies throughout Ontario, with a few using our Virtual Archives to put their previously digitized Women’s Institutes (WI) documents online. As well, some WI Branches and Districts have self-funded digitizing. All in all, there is about a quarter of a million pages on the platform.

There is still a lot of work to be done to complete the digitization of our historical documents.

About half of the documents have not yet been opened to the public as they need to be reviewed for any privacy concerns. This will happen over the next year or two. As well, there are many more books to be digitized. Already there is a waiting list for digitizing from Branches, Districts, and holding organizations.

Our appreciation again to Library and Archives Canada for offering their Documentary Heritage Communities Program. The WI Virtual Archives and digitization of the award-winning Tweedsmuir Collections would not have occurred without their funding.

The public can freely access the Virtual Archives at collections.fwio.on.ca. As well, all the records can be found through the portal search.ourontario.ca.

What’s New in the Virtual Archives?

Additional documents have been opened to the public recently. Check out the “What’s New” section, which can be accessed on the left hand side of the main page or collections.fwio.on.ca/WhatsNew.

Documenting WI Halls, Plaques, Monuments

Members can still make submissions of their WI Halls, plaques, monuments etc. on “Share Your Story” on the FWIO Digital Collections page. We would like to have another 100 or more submissions this year.


A reminder that WI Members and the public can donate to the Tweedsmuir Fund, online or by mail, to assist with future digitizing costs. A charitable receipt will be issued.

This article was featured in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of the Home & Country ROSE Garden.