________________ CM . . . . Volume V Number 4 . . . . October 16, 1998

cover Canada's Visual History CD-ROM.

Montreal, PQ: Canadian Museum of Civilization & National Film Board of Canada, 1996.
IBM (386+, Windows 3.1 & 95), Mac (68030/25+). $59.95.
Order Number: 193C 0397 077

Subject Heading:
Canada-History-Pictorial works.

Grades 6 and up / Ages 11 and up.
Review by Valerie Nielsen.

*** /4

Canada's Visual History CD-ROM consists of eighty volumes, each containing an historical essay written by a specialist on the topic. Each topic is accompanied by thirty images which have been selected from among the best heritage collections across the country. Following each essay is a list of suggestions for further reading on the topic. The volumes deal primarily with Canada's social history, and, in many cases, have a regional or local focus. As such, they tend to be more specific than most elementary or junior high school students would need in order to do the sort of broad research assignment they are given in social studies classes. However, many essays have information relevant to such topics, and, if sufficient guidance is given by a teacher or librarian on how to handle this CD, valuable nuggets may be ferreted out by patient and persistent students.

      Each text, written by active historians, researchers and teachers, provides good quantity, in-depth information about the subject. Unfortunately, for elementary students, the reading level of these essays is well into the grade 7 and above range. Although the unique assembly of photos, rare paintings and drawings, original charts and maps accompanying each essay has great potential for expanding students' understanding, a high level of reading and skimming ability is necessary for these images to be of real value to the researcher.

      The main menu screen is divided into four sections: Themes, Volumes, Index and Search. "Themes" lists essays by cities, native populations, immigration and colonization, arts and crafts, social and political development, industry, conflict and resource exploitation. Clickable under each theme are essays, images, suggested readings and a glossary. Selected images and text may be copied, saved or printed through an integrated word processor available by clicking an on-screen command. This section is probably the most useful for student researchers, since they are likely to recognize the broad key words directing them to more specific information.

      "Volumes" lists the contents of the eighty volumes which may be searched by using the "Search" section. Here, the user may type in a key word, and up to three Boolean modifiers ("and," "or" and "not" are provided by a drop-down menu) to bring up the essays containing these words. Students will need some expertise or help in Boolean searching to go beyond the use of one key word, since the "help" icon provided by the program does not give any instruction in this technique. Using the red forward arrow at the bottom of the screen, the researcher can quickly and easily view all the essays and images on his/her topic found by the search. Clicking on a "Previous" button, the user can review all themes, volumes or searches that have been used up to that point.

      The "Index" section of the main menu screen gives an extensive alphabetical listing by subject, and under the main subject, a smaller list of sub-topics, with another list of available information and "see also" references. Such referencing will gladden the heart of librarians and also give student researchers excellent examples of the relationship between major topics and sub-topics. With only a couple of clicks, students can travel to the volume to find out if the sub-topic they have selected will give them relevant information and then return to their subject area.

      This CD would be of particular value to Senior 1/grade 9 students doing research on Canadian history in their Canadian studies course. With guidance, it could be useful to teachers and students of Canadian history in the upper elementary grades as well. It is certainly well worth adding to the electronic information collection of a middle, junior or senior high school, particularly if it is brought to the attention of those teachers who regularly give their students research topics in Canadian history.


Valerie Nielsen is a recently retired teacher-librarian who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364