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New website is history in the making

Published on

Cathy Dobson  

Editor’s note: The Journal and Sarnia Historical Society have teamed up to produce a special 40-page publication called Sarnia: Then and Now. The free collector’s edition is being distributed separately this week to coincide with the launch of the Society’s website.

Three local history buffs have spent the summer poring over hundreds of stories and photographs in anticipation of the Sarnia Historical Society’s website launch this week.

The website is like a virtual museum for Sarnia, with dozens and dozens of pages about the people and events that shaped our community.

In the absence of a bricks-and-mortar museum – and the large budget that goes with it – Phil Egan, Ron Smith and Laura Greaves revived the nearly defunct historical society last spring.

They’ve taken a new approach to preserving Sarnia’s past by collecting various articles already published, and inviting local residents to submit new ones.

They’re assembling historic photos as well as new images of artifacts to display on the site. And they’re incorporating the projects already taken on by others that reflect the community’s rich past.

All of that material is now available at www.sarniahistoricalsociety.com.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Greaves, who has a PhD in history.

“Sarnia hasn’t had anywhere to share its history and now we’ll have this website that brings it all together.”

On Sept. 4, during the First Friday cultural walkabout, Greaves, Smith and Egan will be set up at TheStory at 179 Christina St. to introduce the website. Content will be projected on a wall with “tours” provided every 15 minutes from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The community is invited to sign up for memberships in the Historical Society and receive a monthly online newsletter.

Other groups interested in local history or contributing content will also be at the First Friday event.

The website has something for everyone, said Smith, who is a professional IT specialist. “I find the War Remembrance project very impactful.”

A group of Sarnians led by Tom Slater assembled the first full and permanent record of fallen local soldiers from the Boer War to recent peacekeeping in Afghanistan. Each has a page at www.sarniahistoricalsociety.com.

Journalist and author Dan McCaffery’s stories about Sarnia’s mayors are online, as are 1,500 photographs from the collection of local historian John Rochon.

“Once the site is launched, we feel the floodgates will open and more stories and photos will be coming out of the woodwork,” said Smith.

Egan, with 40 years in the publishing business under his belt, volunteered to edit each submission for the site. It’s been an intriguing job, he said.

“Sarnia’s history is replete with surprising historical vignettes. The story of E.B. Kilroy, who rode with (General) Sherman on the March to the Sea through Georgia in the Civil War, is just one of them.”

Greaves, Smith and Eagan are currently the only board members of the revised Sarnia Historical Society.

It’s their hope more people will volunteer with special events planned throughout the year.

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