Memorial to develop key site
for heritage info
By Ivan Muzychka, Gazette


January 23, 1997. Copyright © 1997, The Gazette. Reprinted with permission. The Gazette can be reached on the web at www.mun.ca/univrel/gazette

Memorial University is embarking on an ambitious project which will use the latest in computer technology to preserve and promote Newfoundland's cultural heritage. Called the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site, the initiative involves developing a large site on the World Wide Web where researchers and students can find an abundance of information about Newfoundland history, literature and other cultural topics.

Left to Right: Dr. Ron Rompkey, J. R. Smallwood Centre for Newfoundland Studies; Deborah Morrison, CRB Foundation; Tom Axworthy, CRB Foundation.
Reproduced by permission of The Gazette. Photo ©1997
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Funding for the project has come from the CRB (Charles R. Bronfman) Foundation and the project is being co-ordinated at the university by the Faculty of Arts and the J. R. Smallwood Centre for Newfoundland Studies. Technical assistance is being provided by Memorial's Division of Educational Technology and STEMnet.

Dr. Ronald Rompkey, director of the Smallwood Centre, said the project is the first of its kind in Canada. Depending on its success, it could form the basic plan for similar sites across Canada.

The CRB Foundation originally approached the university when it was looking for a starting point to promote its Heritage Fairs program, and a place to implement the website pilot project. Dr. Rompkey said Memorial assisted with the foundation's Heritage Fairs by facilitating the creation of an outside steering committee which Dr. Leslie Harris, president emeritus, now chairs. However, the Heritage Website is now a separate Memorial-based project organized through the Smallwood Centre.

University-wide involvement

Dr. Jim Hiller, Department of History, is the chair of the steering committee which will co-ordinate the website. The site will contain a large number of essays on various aspects of Newfoundland and Labrador culture.

"The purpose of the Heritage Website is to set up a central website that would provide information about various cultural elements of our province," Dr. Rompkey explained. "We are using the expertise that exists at Educational Technology and at STEMnet...This is going to be more that just a home page. This is going to have multiple sections and will encompass a range of ways of looking at our culture...by looking at things like religion, ethnic communities, literature, and history."

The site will also contain links to other related websites. Eventually, the organizers hope to involve the province's communities directly, an aspect of the project that developed almost by accident.

Unbeknownst to the CRB Foundation or Memorial University, Newtel Communications had already launched a competition for Newfoundland schools which encouraged students to create a website about their home community. The sites will be judged and the best entries will receive computer equipment from Newtel.

Dr. Terry Murphy, dean of the Faculty of Arts, said since the Newtel contest and the Heritage Website were complementary, the two organizations have become partners. Memorial will help Newtel judge the entries, and the winning schools will be invited to contribute to the Heritage site.

Sharing information

Dr. Murphy said the initiative is exciting for a number of reasons.

"It's a tremendous opportunity to disseminate -- in accessible language -- the results of the some of the research at the university," he explained. "It's also an interdisciplinary project because we will work on everything from languages to religious heritage, folk traditions, economic development, and literary heritage. We are hoping that every department in the Faculty of Arts will get involved eventually. It's also a good opportunity to work with schools and to co-operate with the private sector and private foundations committed to heritage issues."

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