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From Shoebox Index Cards to Scanned Images


64 years ago on May 16, 1951, a card index of 35 drawers containing the names of 35,000 historical dates, events, people and places of Southwestern Ontario was presented to the London Public Library Board by Mrs. George F. (Pearl M.) Hill as a donation to the library's local history collection.  

This index was prepared by Mrs. Hill who spent five hours a day for a year reading and indexing every edition of the London Free Press' "Looking Over Western Ontario" column since its inception on Saturday October 8, 1921. 

Mrs. Hill first had the idea that an index was necessary when she was told some information for which she was seeking was found in that column but it would be practically impossible to find.  So she approached the London Free Press and began to index the column.

The column was inaugurated by editor Arthur R. Ford and written by local historian Les Bronson.  The first article was about Peter Butler, an early Black settler at Wilberforce near Lucan, Ontario.  The last column appeared in the Monday January 11, 1993 edition of the London Free Press.  The column was revived as "Looking Back Over Southwestern Ontario" from June 10, 2002 to November 27, 2006 by local historians, Fred Armstrong and Dan Brock.

A few years ago, Mrs. Hill's daughter visited the London Room and was amazed that the index cards were still being kept.  She remembered as a child coming home after school and filing the cards alphabetically in shoeboxes for her mother to type.

Beginning in March 2015, London Public Library staff have now completed the scanning of the cards as a digital image and soon this index will be available for electronic searching by the public.