The Cranbrook Archives, located in the large facilities of the Railway Museum, is actually a Cranbrook History Centre that is continually being improved to provide better access by the public to the resource.
This resource contains tens of thousands of historic items about Cranbrook and the railway, so it is useful for museum staff when they are researching material on the historic trains and railway travel, as well as material on Cranbrook as shown by the Cranbrook History Gallery. This free gallery, also at the Museum, contains hundreds of images on local history and is easily accessible off the entrance hall.
However, it’s primary function is provide historic material to Cranbrook residents to better know their roots. The resource contains photos, pamphlets, maps, books, and one of the most important — all of the old Cranbrook newspapers from 1898 (when the City began) to 1975, and which are now being digitalized by volunteer Dave Humphrey.
Humphrey is spending hundreds of hours — and has supplied his own special rotary scanner — to carefully and fully scan the large pages. An example of new technology is the word-searchable PDF format the papers are scanned in. It allows specific word searches for the thousands of newspaper pages in the files. This opens up a whole new way of finding information that a while ago would have taken months, and even then some material might have been missed due to the volume of print on each page. People and business names, events and the “gossip” sections in the papers provide a wealth of information as well a s the “mood” of the era and the ways socializing and doing business, often quite different from today.
The Archives proper, which is primarily two-dimensional flat material (ie, paper), also contains a collection of historic objects about Cranbrook along with some on the railway. These objects currently use the same accession (control) chronological numbering system that the Archives uses for efficiency and due to the lack of trained staff dedicated to look after this resource. Its management and processing is done by Museum staff as time permits, and dedicated volunteers.
The Archives began in 1976 even before the railway museum, which started construction in 1977. Over the years it has been donated material that would have been lost if the Archives had not been in existence.
Access to the database is through the museum website www. trainsdeluxe.com with easy links from the first page. The newspaper database is not on-line, but it is on a special computer at the Museum that the pubic can have free access to during museum hours.