Amateur Saskatoon historian telling the city’s history using newspaper articles and photos dating back to 1902

It’s a story of over a century in the making.

Terry Hoknes tells it page by page, year by year.

Hoknes, a Saskatoon musician and author, creates an online database that tells the city’s story through newspaper clippings and Saskatoon StarPhoenix photos.

“I’ve been through almost half of the 20th century now,” he said.

“I’ve done, I think, about 650,000 pages. I capture, tag and index everything that I think is important.”

Like all great journeys, it started with one step. For Hoknes, that first step happened three years ago when he heard about Google’s News Archive. The site offers newspapers from around the world, downloaded page by page.

Hoknes began scouring old copies of the Star-Phoenix, mostly looking for stories about arts and music.

“Then I was like, ‘Well, if I have to go through every page of every newspaper, it seems kind of silly to skip stuff,'” he said.

“I just decided that I’m going to index everything and really, really tell the story of Saskatoon and show everyone everything that happened that I think is of historical interest.”

A 1920 news clipping details the impact of the Spanish Flu. (Terry Hoknes/History of Saskatoon)

Every night, Hoknes sits in front of an oversized computer screen and scrolls through old copies of the newspaper on Google News and Newspapers.com.

“I basically go to these websites where the logs are already digitized, grab sections, and then just re-tag them in my computer,” he said.

Hoknes runs Facebook pages dedicated to the general history of the city and its rich art scene. He also published books about the city in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Its database is searchable. Instead of going through page after page of microfiche newspapers looking for random information on a topic – say, bike shops in Saskatoon – a user can type “bike shops” into the search field and then browse everything that Hoknes uploaded on this topic.

Saskatoon City Archivist Jeff O’Brien commends Hoknes for taking on such an ambitious project.

“Any time you can make history more accessible, that’s a good thing. And any time you can get people interested in their own story, I think that’s a good thing,” he said. declared.

“The archive he created is very well preserved. It’s kind of like a museum exhibit. So he doesn’t just drop things off at random. He makes decisions about what’s important, how how it all connects, so it’s really a walking tour of Saskatoon’s history.

O’Brien also urged potential users to be wary of the source material.

“Newspapers are a great source of history. And they’re confusing, it’s true, because history is much more complicated when you’re right in the middle of it. And they make mistakes too,” he said. declared.

“You should be aware that newspaper articles may contain factual errors. But if you want to immerse yourself in the world as it was, old newspapers are the next best thing to jumping on a time machine. ”