The Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library is an electronic resource produced by the Huron County Library, in collaboration with the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery. In one Internet location, this resource provides centralized access to geographically dispersed collections of pictorial art created by Canadian photographic pioneer Reuben R. Sallows.
More than 900 original photographs, stereoscopic cards, postcards, and carte-de-visite, provided by six partnering institutions across Southwestern Ontario, have been converted to digital format, catalogued and mounted within this digital repository for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.
The Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library also features a searchable database and publications created by both the library and The Gallery, other Internet accessible materials, information on the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery, and “learning” materials. All of which are designed to increase public awareness of Ontario’s cultural and agricultural history, while celebrating the rich artistic legacy of this artist.
This project was initiated by the need to preserve, conserve and store an historic base collection of approximately 200 original photographs donated by the photographer’s daughter, Nancy Cooke, for the sole purpose of founding the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery, housed in the Goderich Branch Library. From its conservationist roots, the Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library was envisioned as a rich, new digital collection which could:
- Provide centralized access to geographically dispersed collections of Reuben R. Sallows work;
- increase public awareness of the body of photographic art created during the career of “Canada’s photographic genius”; and
- Offer opportunities for students and teachers to view, interact with, and use the collections as an educational tool.
Support from the Government of Ontario, through the Ministry of Culture: Library Strategic Development Fund, and the Government of Canada, through a Young Canada Works at Building Careers in Heritage Internship Grant, permitted library and gallery staff to design and create a searchable database, plus accompanying textual content, that is delivered dynamically via the Internet.
The power of partnerships and visioning continued when we realized that our online searchable database, would enable us to bring together the historic photographic collections of multiple partnering institutions – namely, the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery, Huron County Museum & Historic Gaol, Huron County Historical Society, University of Guelph Library, Archival and Special Collections, University of Western Ontario Libraries, and Archives of Ontario. Together we could not only further contribute to the preservation and promotion of this valuable collection, but provide a means of accessing or “visiting” a gallery of photographs that had previously been inaccessible.
> Find out more about Creating the Framework PDF
Converting Sallows pictorial images into electronic images was only one step in this digitization project. An integral part of the Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library was the creation of a database which could be used for “collections management” purposes, and computer-facilitated retrieval and display. For visitors to the site, it is this finding aid functionality that satisfies their desire to see specific images and encourages them to make repeat visits.
The Search the Collection feature is intended for use by a wide range of users – teachers and students, novice to professional researcher, historian and hobbyist - serving as a tool for self-discovery. Searches can be conducted using the drop-down menu of subject categories, or by keyword(s) of indexed fields. Collection templates based on the Dublin Core metadata standard were created to produce the database of over 900 images from six differing collections, and to enable advanced search functionality including Boolean search and full search of indexed fields.
> Find out more about the Metadata Guidelines PDF
The Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library also recreates the experience of visiting a fine art gallery in a virtual world. Virtual visitors have access to online exhibitions, including curatorial comments, research materials, and themed learning activities that unite the digital images with textual information about the career, subjects, and techniques of “Canada’s photographic genius.” With these functions in mind, the attractive graphic design enhances the searching, learning and presentation functions of this collection ensuring that the Sallows camera continues to contribute towards a composite image of rural agrarian life in Ontario.
The Huron County Library is committed to continue building on the foundations laid with the Reuben R. Sallows Digital Library, providing the ongoing infrastructure to support revisions and future growth of this online resource and collection of digital images.