Thursday, August 29, 2019

New Grant Funds Digitizing More Newspapers

A project that has put over 100,000 historical, Arkansas newspaper pages online already will continue, thanks to another grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, said Brian Irby, archival assistant and project director.

“This grant will allow us to give the public greater access to historical newspapers,” Irby said. 

The Archives was awarded a $250,522 grant for a two-year cycle of 2019-2021 earlier this month. The award makes it possible for the Archives to continue to be part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, which is a joint effort by NEH and the Library of Congress. The program is building a national digital resource of historically significant newspapers that were published between 1690 and 1963.

“Having free access to those newspapers will help expand people’s ability to use them,” Irby said of the project. “Also, for educators, it will help bring primary source material from newspapers into the classroom.”

The grant is a continuation of another NEH grant the Archives received for 2017 to 2019. That grant, which was funded at about the same level, helped the Archives add 40 newspaper titles, or about 103,000 pages, to Chronicling America, which is the program’s free, open-source website. Not all the newspapers digitized in the first grant cycle are available online yet but will be soon.

The Newspapers Program is a long-term effort to develop an internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers. Institutions from across the country are participating in the project. To continue to receive the grant, agencies must reapply. The Arkansas State Archives, which applied for the grant earlier this year, was notified Aug. 12 that its application was accepted.

The process to digitize newspapers will operate the same as before. To make sure the process runs smoothly, the Archives has partnered with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to help with technical aspects of creating and sending quality images that will be uploaded to Chronicling America. Apex CoVantage, the vendor the Archives uses, has been duplicating microfilm and digitizing newspapers from the duplication. Using the duplicated film protects the originals, staff have said. The new grant will fund putting at least another 16 newspaper titles online, Irby said.

“Our patrons are always asking us why we don’t digitize more, but we have multiple efforts underway to increase online access to historical records,” Irby said. “This grant expands our resources to allow us to digitize historical newspapers and to increase the public’s access to these important, historical documents.”