Thursday, June 09, 2011

My Summer Home - The Norwich and District Archives

I have become a prodigal son, of sorts. On hiatus from Toronto, I've returned to my hometown of Norwich, Ontario (population 2014 according to the sign!) in Oxford County and I've begun working at it's local archives. I've always found this place, any many other local archives, to be miserably underused treasures for Canadian historians. Not only do they often offer the personal touch that so many of our larger archives sorely lack but they are bursting with untouched or underexamined records of our rural and small town heritage. Many materials have been encoutered at surface level by local historians and volunteers but rarely are they mined for the connective and analytical depth that a fulltime academic historian can bring out. Some aspects have been academically studied, such as the areas involvement in the Rebellion of 1837, commonly referred to as the Duncombe revolt and to some extent its Quaker history.

Over this summer, broken up by other entries, I'll be highlighting some of various aspects of the area's rich Quaker history and also doing a series on a number of diaries housed at the archives. The Quaker history must be looked at for its contribution beyond the borders of Norwich township. Canadian women's history, the evolution of democracy and human rights, American immigration, and abolitionist history all have serious connections to Oxford county. Norwich, I've found, is a wonderful microcosm of Upper Canadian social, agricultural and political history and I would encourage any Canadian historians not to bypass it's small but valuable historical record. It is, in many ways, an untapped resource. I'll hopefully be able to incorporate scanned images or direct readers to some already digitized material online.

At the moment I've been tasked with cataloguing and referencing the newsletters of the local historical society back to 1971. I'm already fascinated with the social history so firmly embedded in these seemingly irrelevant documents.

Norwich and District Historical Society - here you'll also find some holdingd list, indexes and links to digitized material.
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