A treasure trove of historic maps, reports and other documents held by the St. Croix International Waterway Commission is being made available to help visualize the history of the boundary waterway.
The waterway commission, a nonprofit established in the 1980s by Maine and New Brunswick, has more than 1,000 items, including maps, reports, articles and books collected by its original executive director, Lee Sochasky, who served from 1989-2011.
Elizabeth Hyslop, the current executive director, said the items include old forestry inventory maps stretching from the southeast portion of the St. Croix River watershed near Saint John, New Brunswick, to the northwest near Woodstock, New Brunswick. Other documents include the IJC’s 1918 Pollution of Boundary Waters Report.
Since 2011, the documentation had been stored in a warehouse in Calais, Maine, and the maps in a former outdoor center in St. Croix, New Brunswick. Last year, the waterway commission had archivists and historians check out the collections.
“They said that there’s no monetary value, but there’s probably interest out there for looking over these maps,” Hyslop said.
In July 2020, waterway commission staff started scanning the maps – some of which are more than 3 meters (10 feet) long – to make them available on its website.
Since September, the waterway commission has been cataloging the documents and books. Due to copyright laws and the difficulty in tracking down copyright status, some of the items will not be scanned online, but general information about them will be placed into an online database. If someone wants to view one of the non-scanned items, they can contact the waterway commission.
“We wanted to take that information and put it into a platform that lets the public know we have this stuff, so that if they need it they can borrow (it),” Hyslop said.
With New Brunswick Power looking at removing the Milltown Dam at the mouth of the St. Croix River, Hyslop said there has been renewed interest in waterway commission materials from researchers, including Ph.D. and master’s students, to learn more about historic water quality in the river.
Once a full catalog of the materials available is online, Hyslop hopes it’ll be easier for researchers to look into the local history of the river.
Kevin Bunch is a writer-communications specialist at the IJC’s US Section office in Washington, D.C.