Thursday, May 30, 2019

Archives Project Opens Access to Historical Newspapers

The Log Cabin Democrat, Conway, Arkansas,
March 27, 1917, Chronicling America
In the next few weeks, the Arkansas State Archives will have scanned 40 newspaper titles, or about 103,000 pages, and sent them to the Library of Congress. People will have a whole new way to access these historical records online, said Wendy Richter, state historian and director of the Arkansas State Archives.

“One of my biggest goals for the Arkansas State Archives has been to make records more accessible to the public,” Richter said. “This project puts tens of thousands of documents at the fingertips of more people in Arkansas and nationwide.”

The Archives was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of $208,128 in 2017 to be part of a National Digital Newspapers Program that created the website Chronicling America, which is an open-source website. 

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, which is a joint effort of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress serves the U.S. Congress and is the de facto national library for the U.S. The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent, federal agency that supports research, education, preservation and public programs in the humanities.

To make sure the process runs smoothly, the Arkansas State Archives partnered with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History to help with technical aspects of creating and sending quality images. 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 said.

Processing the newspapers and getting them online has been slow. At one point, the Library of Congress experienced a backlog, but as of last month, 35,947 pages from Arkansas newspapers were put online. More will go up soon, said Kelsey Kahlbaum-Hoisington, project archivist.

“For me, the most interesting thing about this project is getting to read the historical newspapers,” Kahlbaum-Hoisington said. “I was surprised by the amount of humor in the newspapers.”

The last pages for this grant cycle will be sent to the Library of Congress in July, said Kahlbaum-Hoisington, but the State Archives has applied for another grant to continue the program, Richter said.