digitizing US newspapers

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Tue Apr 12 13:23:03 UTC 2005

Dear list-members,

The following item from the Chronicle for Higher Education mentions a
grant program from the US National Endowment for the Humanities for
digitizing newspapers from the early 20th century.  When you read the fine
print (go to http://www.neh.fed.us/projects/ndnp.html) you see that this
is only for newspapers in ENGLISH.  My concern and question is whether
anyone has experience with using newspapers in languages other than
English printed in the US during the 19th and 20th centuries, and what the
prognosis might be for preservation of those materials?

My experience has been that these materials are often in atrocious
shape--neglected, ignored, denigrated, and often sent for recyling when
space needs become more important than preservation.  I do note that an
earlier program, the United States Newspaper Program
(http://www.neh.fed.us/projects/usnp.html)  mentions some non-English
newspapers, e.g. a Texas project, "which includes the newspapers of
Jewish, Czech, and German settlers" and newspapers in Hawaiian (in Hawaii)
and in Cherokee (in Oklahoma) but in general, the notion conveyed is the
usual anglo-centric one, i.e. "all we need to know about US history can be
learned through English."

Is anybody besides me concerned about this issue enough to try to mount a
grant proposal to save non-English papers on a larger scale?

Hal Schiffman

---------- Forwarded message ----------


Tuesday, April 5, 2005

4 Universities Will Help Digitize Newspapers From the Early 20th Century


Four universities and two public libraries are sharing $1.9-million in
grants to digitize newspapers from the beginning of the 20th century so
the publications can be preserved and searched online.

The two-year grants were announced on Monday by the Library of Congress
and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the National
Digital Newspaper Project, a new program that will eventually preserve old
newspapers from all over the country in digital form.

With the money, each institution will digitize 100,000 or more pages from
the most historically significant newspapers published in its state
between 1900 and 1910. The digital copies will then be available free on
the Library of Congress's Web site.

The grant recipients and their awards are as follows:

Library of Virginia, $201,226.

New York Public Library, $351,500.

University of California at Riverside, $400,000.

University of Florida Libraries, Gainesville, $320,959.

University of Kentucky Research Foundation, $310,000.

University of Utah, $352,693.

"The Library congratulates these institutions for taking a leading role in
making newspapers -- among our richest records of history -- available
electronically through our Web site," James H. Billington, librarian of
Congress, said in a written statement. "We hope the National Digital
Newspaper Program inspires other institutions to make their public-domain
newspapers accessible online."

The program's goal is to digitize every historically significant newspaper
from every U.S. state and territory from 1836 to 1922. Officials say the
entire program will take about 20 years.

"Newspapers are among the most important historical documents we have as
Americans. They tell us who we were, who we are, and where were going,"
said Bruce Cole, chairman of the humanities endowment. "Students,
historians, lawyers, politicians -- even newspaper reporters -- will be
able to go to their computers at home or at work and through a few
keystrokes get immediate, unfiltered access to the greatest source of our
history. It will be available to the American public for free, forever."

Andrea Vanek, a librarian for UC-Riverside, is the assistant director of
the California Newspaper Project, which has been locating and cataloguing
microfilm of old newspapers under another government program. With the new
grant, she said in an interview, the project will be able to expand its
role to include digitizing small newspapers from all over the state.

"We do want to represent the whole state," Ms. Vanek said. "It's going to
create such a resource for users throughout the world."

Copyright  2005 by The Chronicle of Higher Education

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