News & Updates

2017-2020 Digitizing Project Update

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. 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.

Donations

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.


FWIO Receives Library and Archives Canada Funding to Preserve Historical Documents

June 2, 2017 - The Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario (FWIO) are pleased to announce funding from Library and Archives Canada through their Documentary Heritage Communities Program. FWIO has been preserving, digitizing and making accessible its many Tweedsmuir Community History Collections (commonly called Tweedsmuirs) and record books found across Ontario. The first phase, which ended March 31, 2016, provided a searchable website featuring items already digitized, and the digitization of further documents. This new funding of $100,000/year over three years will help FWIO digitize additional Tweedsmuir collections and other records books which will be added to the Virtual Archives.

This three-year phase will:

  1. Continue to digitize more of the remaining Tweedsmuir collections and records books across Ontario and make them available to the public. There have been approximately 2,000 Women's Institute (WI) Branches through the years across rural Ontario. Besides minute and record books, it is estimated there are 1,300 Tweedsmuir collections that have been created, with about 1,000 collections not yet digitized.
  2. Inspect and repair, as required, the documents being digitized.
  3. Link to WI documents that are already available on other websites.
  4. Commemorate the 120th anniversary of the WI movement in 2017 by creating a virtual exhibit and library, documenting the many halls, community buildings, monuments, cairns, etc. created by WI Members as part of community service.

Besides having the original documents remain locally, researchers across Ontario, Canada, and the world will be able to access the Tweedsmuirs and other historical documents and information to learn about our rich communities, conduct family research, and discover the wonderful work that has been created by WI Members.

FWIO gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada’s support, through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program of Library and Archives Canada.

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Check out the Start of FWIO's Virtual Archives

As of March 31, 2016 there is now an online platform to allow WI Members and the public to access the many documents the Women’s Institutes (WI) have created across the province since 1897, while the original documents remain within their communities.

At this point in time, the following documents are available for viewing and searching.  More will be released on an ongoing basis, after they are reviewed for privacy considerations.

  1. The complete series of the FWIO newsletter, The Home & Country, from 1933 to present.
  2. The WI original constitution, penned in 1897.
  3. Award-winning Tweedsmuir Community History Collections which document the history of a community, from 10 Branches. (Private information has been removed.)
  4. Three published books on the history of the WI, for our 40th, 50th, and 75th anniversaries.
  5. Minute and record books for six Branches, including the minutes of Stoney Creek, the first WI Branch in the world. (Documents less than 50 years old are not available due to privacy considerations.)
  6. Other miscellaneous documents, such as a photo album on a Stone Fence Project.

Check out this virtual archives and learn about the rich communities in Ontario, conduct family research, and discover the wonderful work that has been created by WI Members.  FWIO is applying for further grants to continue digitizing documents and adding them to this platform.  We also encourage the public to donate to this worthwhile project.

We gratefully acknowledge the Government of Canada’s support, through the Documentary Heritage Communities Program of Library and Archives Canada.

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