THE EARLY YEARS, 1784-1948

The Collection || The Images || Language || Document Metadata and Markup || Project Staff || Project Support || Project Coordinators

The Collection

This collection brings together the images of 57 commission reports conducted between 1784 and 1950. Because no single institution in New Brunswick has a complete set of all the reports of these commissions, these were copied from the holdings of the collections of the Legislative Library, the University of New Brunswick Libraries, and the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. These three institutions have additional information in both original and published for among their rich holdings on in the history of the province.

The collection has been created using a bibliography of New Brunswick commissions of enquiry, currently in pre-publication stage, compiled by Eric Swanick, Legislative Librarian at the New Brunswick Legislative Library. In his bibliography, Swanick identified 71 commissions which fall within the date range and selection criteria established for this project. Regrettably, of those 71 commissions identified, there are a few commissions for which no final report can be found.

Commissions of enquiry are bodies created by a government to investigate, study or report on an issue of concern. The commissions come into existence through an enabling act, such as the act to provide for an Agricultural Commission (Statutes of New Brunswick 1908 c.15), or by the Lieutenant Governor through an Order-in-Council. In New Brunswick, the current authority for these latter commissions is the act known as the Inquiries Act (Revised Statutes of New Brunswick 1973 c.I-11). Under this act, the Lieutenant Governor is empowered to establish commissions to inquire or investigate complaints connected with the "good government of the Province, the conduct of any part of the public business, the administration of justice, or any matter that the Lieutenant-Governor in Council deems to be of public interest."

The scope of the collection, then, includes commissions which were established by an individual act or which were authorized through Order-In-Council under the enquiries act. The date range selected for this project was the period from the founding of the province in 1784 to 1948. The one exception to this time period is the Royal Commission on Municipal Finance and Taxation, commonly known as the Byrne Commission. This commission, which produced its seminal report in 1963, is the first to be published in both official languages of the province and had a revolutionary effect on local government within the province. The importance of the commission warranted its inclusion at this time.

In addition to the final report of the commissions, the collection includes enabling legislation and background documents. Where possible, evidence, submissions, and minutes have been included as well, but it has not been possible to include digital images of all related material for this project within the constraints of the SchoolNet project. Each commission is described in an abstract, written by Hart Caplan in English, and translated into French by Translation Bureau, New Brunswick Department of Supply and Services.

The Images

The technical decisions on imaging were shaped by a few key decisions at the outset of the project. The objective of this project was to provide access in a variety of formats to the reports of commissions which shaped the history of the province. This resulted in two decisions which affected the scanning protocols. First, the project partners agreed to provide the documents in a variety of formats to allow users to select a format appropriate to their situation. Secondly, the project partners agreed that it was more important to focus on the information content of the document, and to provide files which could be downloaded quickly, rather than adhering to an exact archival replication of each page scanned.

Accordingly, the project partners agreed to scan the documents in greyscale, at 600 dpi, from original materials whenever possible. A TIFF image was generated and burned to CDROM for archival purposes. Once the .tiff file was created, adjustments were made to the contrast when necessary and, in some cases, margins were cropped to permit smaller files more suitable for downloading. The page images were then converted to .gif files. A perl script, written by Steve Sloan, groups the .gif files for each commission document and allows forward and backward movement through each document.

The gif files were also converted into Adobe Acrobat files (.pdf files), which gives users the choice of viewing the sequential gif images, or using the Adobe Acrobat viewer, which allows change in magnification as well as a single level search capability within the document. For a select number of commissions which were identified as "high interest" topics, the .pdf file was converted to ascii text, and marked up for HTML viewing and for OpenText searching.

To give those using the site a sense of the time and nature of the original material, the covers of those commission reports published as monographs were scanned and saved as JPEG files. These covers are included on each commission's home page, along with the abstract and documents available for retrieval. When the report lacked a cover, a generic "cover page," designed by Troy Stanley, was used.

The final task in creating a site has been the programming done by Steve Sloan, Systems Librarian at the University of New Brunswick Libraries. Through scripts based on the TEI header and SGML markup, Steve has linked all the files for each commission and made it possible for users to search for commissions by name, place, date, organization, Library of Congress Subject Headings, or by keyword in the abstract, using the OpenText search engine. Alternatively, the user can browse and select a commission from either the complete list or by time period. The user is linked to a summary page, which provides the abstract, documents associated with the commission, and the viewing format which best meets their local equipment and use requirements.


New Brunswick is officially bilingual and it was important to the three partners that the site be bilingual inasmuch as is possible. It will be noted that the material on the site is predominantly English at this point. English was the working language of government until the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Finance and Municipal Taxation (the Byrne report) were adopted in 1967.

A decision was made to provide translations of abstracts for each commission, with a link to the record in its original language. With abstracts available in both official languages, for example, users can search "l'élise catholique" or "Catholic Church" and retrieve the images of the English report of the Commission on Bathurst Schools, which dealt with religious education in public schools. In the case of the Byrne Commission, both the French and English language versions are available for viewing, and the finding aid for the submissions has also been made available for searching using the language of preference.

Document Metadata and Markup:

Each document in this collection has been encoded in compliance with the Text Encoding Initiative markup scheme. Like HTML, TEI is an application of SGML, Standard Generalized Markup Language. Unlike HTML whose use is primarily for the display of texts on the WWW, the TEI standard supports literary, historical, linguistic, statistical and other kinds of texts for paper, CD Rom and Web publishing and interchange.

The TEI markup scheme involves marking up the document itself (the text) and information about the text, both the electronic and print versions. Information about the text is described in what is called the TEI header. This is where a document's title is encoded, as well as the name of its encoder; it's publication information; its file size. It is in the header that information about the print copy of the text (the source) is recorded, as well as any differences between the electronic and print versions. Each Royal Commission (and supporting documents) has a TEI header describing it. By describing each document in a TEI Header it is possible to better access the information featured here, especially where the document is online in GIF and PDF formats only.

Besides web searching, other advantages of marking up the documents in TEI/SGML are text processing and internal searching. Titles of the documents are encoded in the header with tags. It was then possible for our systems person to write a script (in perl) that displayed all titles to the Web. Further, by having the dates encoded,, our systems person could sort all of the Commissions chronologically, if we needed them arranged that way. Abstracts are encoded with tags. If we wanted to display abstracts in a larger font or another typographic style, the individual files would not have to be changed. Rather, a script would specify that for web publication all data between tags would be rendered in a certain font size, type and colour.

Internal searching is refined with markup in TEI/SGML. Since, as we've said, abstracts are encoded as we can then limit a search to abstracts :

Search for _________ within ABSTRACT.

The same is true for names of individual Commissioners or titles:

Search for _________ within NAME
Search for _____________ within TITLE.

If a text is available in full-text, one can limit a to a particular report:

Search for __________ within REPORT.

Such searching specifications would be impossible if the structure of the text were not somehow described.

In New Brunswick Royal Commissions: The Early Years, the following structures and elements were encoded: header information, abstracts, reports, enabling legislation, orders in council, letters patent, expense reports, correspondence, background documents, evidence, Commissioner names, places, corporations and subjects.

Project Staff:

Hart Caplan, Team Leader

Hart was indispensable in both organizing the work involved in the project and in pulling this project together as the project wound down. From the outset, he managed to orchestrate the work of the team with energy and good humour, and dedicated his considerable talents, including superior research and writing abilities, to the success of the project. Hart had primary responsibility for the research on available material, negotiations with partner institutions for borrowing material, as well as for writing abstracts for each commission, scanning documents, final editing, and the overall coordination of team members.

Troy Stanley, Website design and digital imaging

Troy created with the initial site design and was responsible for creation of the archival images (tiffs) as well as for the images suitable for viewing via the Internet (PDF and gif images).

Anne Crowell, SGML/TEI markup

Anne had the onerous task of learning SGML mark-up, and she worked with the Lisa Charlong, Electronic Text Centre, in the area of markup of ascii text documents and in the creation of TEI headers.

Project Support:

Steve Sloan, Systems Librarian, University of New Brunswick Libraries

The backbone of the project is the programming which brings together all the images, and Steve Sloan, who has been extremely active in electronic text projects and initiatives, has written all of the code for this project. Steve also worked on problem-solving and trouble-shooting with the technical aspects of the project, including the design of the searching component using OpenText.

Lisa Charlong, Electronic Text Centre

The ETC administers many projects, each with a project contact. Lisa was the project contact for the Commissions of Enquiry project and worked through SGML mark-up and parsing with Anne Crowell.

Alan Burk, Electronic Text Centre

As the Director of the Electronic Text Centre, Alan is responsible for setting the direction for the Centre and deciding which projects are appropriate for the Centre's participation. We were very fortunate in having Alan's support on this project and more than once, he resolved equipment problems with Sandy Bird, the systems technical support.

Barb Wheeler, Cataloguing Department, University of New Brunswick Libraries

Access to the commissions was the driving theme behind the project, which meant that the expertise of the Cataloguing Department was important to the ability of users to retrieve images. Barb, with the assistance of Andy Pope, did authority work on commissions and commissioners, and supplied Library of Congress Subject Headings for the commissions.

Project Coordinators:

Burton Glendenning, Manager, Public Services, Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

The project would not have been possible without the hard work and cooperation of Burt Glendenning, of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. In addition to arranging training of the project staff, he coordinated the loan of materials for scanning and tracked down obscure references to Orders-in-Council, Letters Patent, and other documents related to the projects. In countless ways, Burt made the work of the Project Team go more smoothly.

Elizabeth Hamilton, Government Documents, Data & Maps, University of New Brunswick Libraries

As Project Manager, Elizabeth worked with Karen Maguire to ensure that the project team was hired to both start and finish on time, to complete the forms and reports required by SchoolNet, and to figure out solutions to seemingly insoluble problems.

Eric Swanick, Legislative Librarian, New Brunswick Legislative Library

The inspiration behind this project arose with the work that Eric Swanick had done on a the province's first extensive bibliography of commissions of enquiry. He has generously given permission to use the list as a working document for this project, though researchers who are interested in commissions should refer to the complete information on individual commissions provided in the print bibliography. Eric's in-depth knowledge of historical government publishing was called on to sort out the anomalies and practices of a small and informal civil service prior to Commission Number 81.

Elizabeth Hamilton,
Project Manager.