Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive (SWODA)


The Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive is home to online archival collections developed at the University of Windsor. It contains an important record of our local history through images, publications, directories, newspapers, and other materials. It is dedicated to assisting faculty, students, and other researchers in their exploration of southwestern Ontario history and culture.

SWODA Images          
SWODA Publications  
SWODA Newspapers  

We continue to add valuable new collections. For more information and inquiries, please contact:

Katharine Ball
Leddy Library
University of Windsor
Tel.: (519) 253-3000 x3852

Background And Main Goal

This region is one of the oldest settled areas in Ontario with a rich history dating back to the 17th century and earlier. This history encompasses settlement by First Nations groups, early French settlement led by Cadillac, the Jesuit mission to the Huron Indians, Black fugitive settlement, and the vital role of the underground railway. In the later 19th and early 20th centuries, the region was a hub for industrial development and an important area for the study of management/labour relations in Canada. Much of this history and culture are not well-covered on the web. As the major academic research institution in Southwestern Ontario, we are working with the campus and local community to make more of our primary source materials freely available online to researchers. As well, we are providing space, equipment, software, and expertise to enable new knowledge creation that engages users and better communicates our region’s history and culture in all formats, but especially on the web.

General Parameters

Geographical focus:  Southwestern Ontario: Essex, Chatham-Kent, and Lambton counties

Time period focus:    None specifically, but primarily out-of-copyright works; mostly pre-1965

Subject focus:          History, architecture, culture and social life, labour, agriculture, slavery and underground railway,
                                manufacturing, industry, Great Lakes, University of Windsor, Assumption College

Material types:         Images: photographs, postcards, illustrations, maps
                                Text materials: books, directories, newspapers, pamphlets, letters, ephemera

Formats:                 Print, microform, photographic negatives, digital       


Processes and Activities

Making materials available online varies somewhat depending on the type of resource in question. However, these are some of the steps:

  • Select materials based on the above SWODA parameters, the materials’ intellectual and interpretive value, and physical condition. Ensure that the resource has not already been digitized elsewhere.

  • Convert text or pictorial information into electronic images by scanning or using a digital camera.

  • For text materials: process using optical character recognition software.

  • Create/enhance metadata to enable users to find the materials.

  • Using database and web software, provide a platform so that users can effectively search and retrieve the digitized resources.

  • For faculty, students and community partners: provide space, equipment, software, and expertise to help create online platforms and curated exhibits that will build digital communication skills and allow users to better engage with content.


Specific Outcomes And Benefits

  • Opportunities for research and publishing are enhanced because there is easier access to:
    • the information content of fragile resources, all the while preserving the physical documents themselves
    • rare materials that previously needed to be locked away for security reasons
    • difficult format materials, e.g. photographic negatives
  • Provision of metadata enables faster and more effective information searching and retrieval
  • Allows access from anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or week
  • Supports the undergraduate learning experience by allowing students to more easily relate their studies back to their own local environment and community
  • Allows faculty and library staff to spend less time overcoming access issues and more time helping students and researchers with the interpretation of primary source material; enables more creative and original course design and delivery
  • Cooperation and collaboration with the campus and local community builds trust and good working relationships that allow for the continued growth of the Archive and other related projects
  • Provision of space, equipment, software, and expertise also builds digitization and online communication skills that allow researchers’ work to reach a greater audience and more effectively engage users with their content
  • The process of digitization, which includes the review of collections, assessment of condition, and the creation/enhancement of metadata also results in better control and management of University resources and information content
  • The Archive serves as a promotional and marketing tool for the University


Updated: August, 2016