Extensive digital database about Great War now housed at UVic


Private Donald Johnston Mackinnon, 73rd Battalion (Canadian Infantry), enlisted September 1915. UVic, Canadian Great War Project (CGWP).

A young Albertan soldier recently promoted and fresh from a sniper’s course was killed by a sniper’s bullet himself after being moved to the front lines in the Somme 100 years ago during the First World War. The poignant details of his time in the battlefield and valuable records about thousands of Canadians during the Great War are part of one of the best online sources of its kind—meticulously curated by a Canadian living in Ohio—now to be housed at the University of Victoria.

These records are readily available to scholars, family members and history buffs, thanks to Marc Leroux’s website (www.canadiangreatwarproject.com), with a new look set to be unveiled Nov. 11 by UVic in time for Remembrance Day. The Canadian Great War Project—founded 10 years ago by Leroux—is a crowd-sourced inventory of digital data on more than 176,000 of the 619,636 soldiers, nurses and chaplains from Canada during the First World War.

“This is a jewel and a national treasure, and its preservation no longer has to rest solely on the shoulders of only one person,” says project manager Jim Kempling, a PhD candidate in UVic’s history department. “Marc has made a monumental personal contribution to preserving the record of sacrifice of so many Canadians during the Great War. It’s remarkable that one person living in the States can make such an impactful difference to Canadian history and we are honoured he chose UVic to be the permanent site host.”

The site features over 18,000 pages of war diaries, nearly 30,000 images and approximately 500 letters, and hosts close to 185,000 visits each year. There is even a list of well-known Canadians who served in the war, including former Prime Ministers John Diefenbaker and Lester B. Pearson.

Over the years, Leroux has encouraged the active participation of qualified researchers including those within local communities, church associations and history groups. Kempling calls it “a big leap” for crowd sourcing long before anyone used the term.

UVic’s Humanities Computing and Media Centre coordinated the web development and continues to assist with the full transfer of data from Leroux’s server to UVic Libraries’. The move from the current site to an enhanced site will be phased in over several months, with the first release providing a much enhanced search engine for the soldier database.

The repatriation of the site received funding from Veterans Affairs Canada.

A media kit including screen grabs is available at this Dropbox link.

A backgrounder is also available.

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Media contacts

Jim Kempling (PhD candidate, Dept. of History) at jimk@uvic.ca

Marc Leroux (Canadian Great War Project) at marc@marcleroux.com

Tara Sharpe (University Communications + Marketing) at tksharpe@uvic.ca

View the backgrounder.

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Keywords: Jim Kempling; UVic Libraries; History; digital collections; First world war; WWI; Great War, community, research

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