Alberta Saints and Digital Ephemera

By July 5, 2012

I have been a student of Mormon history for over a decade now and have also been an active participant of the Web since I was a young man. I rolled with the revolutions of HTML, GIFs, Flash, web standards, and ?HTML5? more recently. These two worlds, Mormon history and the Web, have increasingly been gravitating toward and colliding into each other, inevitably spilling out new galaxies of information [1]. This makes me a chipper boy in the 21st century, an age of expanding data, information, knowledge, and wisdom.

I have had a deep love for the written record all my life. I spent many sacrament meetings concocting ancient languages and alien civilizations with records, archives of materials left behind for some race to discover (usually on Mars). My Mormon upbringing, with its variety of cosmological dreams and visions inspired my doodlings. I thank Heavenly Father for parents who let me and my brothers draw in a house of God. Documents, real or imagined, became more and more relevant to my worldview as the years elapsed.

It should be noted that my mother is mostly to blame for my addiction to the oddities of the past, which includes a healthy dose of my quirky Mormon forebears. I became a collector and the pseudo-archivist for the family. After I served a mission for the church in Alberta (Canada Calgary Mission) and subsequently married a descendant of Charles Ora Card [2] and Zina Prescindia Young Williams Card [3], I decided I should invest some time and effort into our histories. I finished became involved with the CHL for a time, volunteered at numerous libraries and museums, finished my BA in history at UVU in the summer of 2010, welcomed our first daughter into the world, and then moved to Seattle to start a masters in library and information science.

In the midst of these great life changes I began several projects, which I have been incubating for a couple of years now. I want you to look at them, critique them, and add your voice and hands to them. I present them to you as if from a pottery workshop: some are misshapen, some glitzy, some structurally sound but rough, some are merely ephemera, short prose realized as markup. I hope they get you thinking about the potential of Mormon history on the Web:

  • Saints of Alberta Project
    • This site is the beginning of an effort by myself and others to gather the documents, photographs, music, writings, and histories of the Latter-day Saints of Alberta, Canada, from the earliest years of the Church in Alberta to the present. While in its infancy, my hope is for the Project to motivate a serious scholarly conversation and to build a community around the legacy of Albertan Mormons within their contexts at a national level, within western history, and Church history.
  • Book of Abraham Project redesign
    • I?ve been working over the years with WVS on a new interface for BOAP. This is one of many versions we?ve played around with using. Click on ?Brigham Young? to see a more built out idea for browsing sermons (Note: this is pre-documentary editing of the sermons).
  • Priesthood line of authority
    • A fun little design for displaying priesthood lines of authority
  • Book of Mormon Wiki
    • I wanted to document the various editions, scholarship, and persons involved with the Book of Mormon. This may be defunct as the FAIR wiki has a lot of good stuff already. A hat tip to Blair Hodges!
  • Mormon Publications Index
    • We?re indexing all of the Mormon blogs we can find so far. Twentieth century oddities are next on the list.
  • I also made this:

    When I was but a fan.

I have had a very positive response from others about the Saints of Alberta Project. I have received fascinating documents and photos (digital surrogates) from complete strangers which will be featured on the site soon.

I have several other projects in the pipeline, and I?ll be sharing them with you shortly. I am very excited to share these ideas with you and link up others working on similar efforts. I should also note that I recently graduated with my MLIS and am now looking for work… from my in-laws? home [4].

I am determined that Mormon history can blossom even further in this century with more openness, more open source, and more collaboration. So whether they be micro, small, or large scale projects the future is bright and the day dawn is breaking.






Article filed under Digital Humanities Public History


  1. Tod–

    I’m really excited about these projects, especially the Saints of Alberta project and the BOAP redesign (which looks fantastic). Thanks for previewing them here.

    Can you say a bit more about how exactly readers interested in any of the projects can get involved?

    Comment by Christopher — July 5, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

  2. This is all completely fantastic, Tod. Keep it up!

    Comment by Jeremy Orbe-Smith — July 5, 2012 @ 9:08 pm

  3. Oh yeah! Any person who would like to get involved in any of these projects can contact me directly ( or todd dot d dot robbins at the gmail). Or if you’d like to just have some fun conversations I’m online often and would love to mesh brains.

    Comment by Tod R. — July 5, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

  4. Interesting stuff! I love it when local histories are put on the web. They help so much with gathering basic information for family histories or academic research.

    Comment by Amanda HK — July 5, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

  5. This is exciting stuff.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 6, 2012 @ 12:16 am

  6. This sounds like a lot of fun. (I browsed through the blogs index and my, there are a lot of Mormon blogs out there. I probably shouldn’t be surprised.)

    Comment by Saskia — July 6, 2012 @ 9:50 am

  7. Wonderful! Do I get to vote for my favorite? I’d pick Saints of Alberta, although the others also look interesting. Saints of Alberta looks like the one most likely to pay dividends in terms of meaningful connections and collaborations and recognition in the field of Mormon studies.

    The problem with sites like these is, of course, content and continuity. I’ve seen many that have gotten off to a good start but then have been abandoned for whatever reason, usually within two to four months. Success seems to depend on two things: a) an obsessive interest in the subject and attention to detail, and b) community support and involvement.

    With both of these factors present, I’ve seen family sites grow into formidable repositories of information. You can see various examples by using the google search “family associations” or by looking at the links in footnotes 38-91 of the Wikipedia page “List of Mormon family organizations.”

    (There is also the sub-genre of the family or community history blog. Some of them are very good.)

    Community websites seem to be less common than family websites. The Washington County Historical Society has a good one, and it’s sometimes been useful in my Eminent Women project.

    Well, the web design of the various projects is impressive, Tod. Great start! I’ll send an email later with some more detailed suggestions and ideas.

    Comment by Amy T — July 6, 2012 @ 12:15 pm

  8. One thing that intrigues me about the Alberta Mormons are some of the folk tales that I think tell a lot about the self-identity. I’m here thinking of the traditions of the Sundance Kid and sometimes Butch Cassidy coming up to southern Alberta (in many tales after their purported deaths in south America). In some ways these are extensions of similar tales in Utah but in other ways say a lot about self-identity.

    I’ve long found the Fay Ray (sp?) fountain in Cardston kind of interesting as well – especially since almost no one knows who she is anymore.

    Comment by Clark — July 6, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

  9. Tod,

    Just sent you an email after looking at your Saints of Alberta page. Got some things I could share. All of this looks intriguing. Glad to get to know you here.

    Comment by kevinf — July 6, 2012 @ 4:56 pm


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