New Brunswick

Bored at home? The Fredericton Region Museum needs your help to 'rewrite' history

In a time when many people are out of a job and staying in their homes, the Fredericton Region Museum is putting people to work.

As many are stuck in their homes, the museum is looking for transcribers

This postcard is just one of hundreds of historical documents that are part of the Fredericton Region Museum collection. (Submitted by Melynda Jarratt)

In a time when many people are out of a job, and staying in their homes the Fredericton Region Museum is putting people to work.

The museum is emailing out dozens of scans of historical documents, many of which are more than one hundred years old, to anyone who can help with transcribing them.

"I look on my computer and I see all these people talking about, you know, I'm bored, or I'm depressed," said Melynda Jarratt, the executive director of the museum."

Melynda Jarratt, executive director of the Fredericton Region Museum, got the idea to email scanned copies of historical documents to volunteers after she saw so many complaints of people being bored. (Isabelle Hains)

The near endless stacks of documents are made up of postcards, letters, movie posters, and playbills from New Brunswick's history.

That collection also includes a handwritten novel that Jarratt says has been n the museums collection waiting to be transcribed for at least thirty years. 

"It's a historical non-fiction novel about a black slave named George Lawrence from Fredericton," said Jarratt. "And It's a fantastic story and we've been wanting to get it transcribed, but who's got the time? One hundred pages. But I'm telling you, people are willing to do it." 

"The Snowshoe Regiment" is a one hundred page, handwritten novel volunteers are helping to transcribe for the Fredericton Region Museum. (Submitted by Melynda Jarratt)

That novel focuses on the black soldiers in the "snowshoe regiment." Soldiers marched from Fredericton to Kingston, Ontario, then known as Upper Canada, in little over 50 days between February and April, during the war of 1812. 

"This is kind of giving a firsthand narrative," said Anne Touchie, one of the volunteers helping transcribe a portion of that novel. "I think the author may have embellished in there, just to make it more interesting, but there is also a lot about race relations in there within the first few pages." 

Touchie says she got involved to take a break from her online studies with Athabasca University. She and her boyfriend have been isolating themselves for weeks. 

"I was really bored," said Touchie. "And I was also looking for a way to procrastinate with my school a little bit, but more than that I was just looking for something to do because it's gotten really boring since I started to isolate. 

Melynda Jarratt, the executive director of the Fredericton Region Museum, says if any one would like to assist with transcribing New Brunswick's history to contact her via the museums website or Facebook page. (Submitted by Melynda Jarratt)

Touchie is one of the few young people that can assist with the project.

That's because the only requirement for transcribing the historical documents is the ability to read cursive writing, something Jarratt says is lost on younger generations. 

"It's a like a foreign language, you might as well ask them to read mandarin. They haven't a clue – couldn't string together a sentence if they tried," said Jarratt. 

She says anyone looking to help can contact her through the museum's website or Facebook page.

This is just one of the documents volunteers are helping to transcribe while being isolated at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted by Melynda Jarratt)


Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.


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