Grants for newspaper digitization projects help preserve history

June 7th, 2013 | Posted by Kevin Corley in Document and Information Capture | Information Management

Cities around the world are continually looking for ways to preserve critical documents such as newspapers, court records, photographs and other information, all of which provide a richer understanding of local history. These paper files are vulnerable to loss, destruction or damage with age. As a result, many libraries and towns have been deploying document imaging technologies to convert records to a digital format.

The News-Gazette reported that the Allerton Public Library District in Monticello, Ill., recently received a $100,000 grant from the local Robert Mulligan trust to digitize Piatt County yearbooks and newspapers dating back to 1865. The documents will be scanned, creating an electronic snapshot that allows these images to be available and searchable through an online portal. Library Director Lisa Winters explained that the digitization project, which is being done in collaboration with the Piatt County Historical and Geneological Society, will begun this summer and likely take a year to complete.

"The most important reasons to digitize are to enhance access and improve preservation," said Winters, according to the source. "For example, with the newspaper collections we can make information accessible that was previously only available to a select group of researchers."

Digital success
The Canberra Times revealed similar initiatives in Australia. The newspaper has been in print since 1926, and now, the source reported plans to digitize past editions to make them viewable to researchers, historians, genealogists and other interested parties for years to come. In cooperation with Trove, the National Library of Australia's online database, The Canberra Times is in the process of adding 40 years of issues to what is currently available. National Library's Director of Community Outreach Cathy Pilgrim explained that by the end of 2013, The Canberra Times will be the most comprehensively digitized of all newspapers that Trove has digitized so far. And the community has strongly embraced these digital libraries. Pilgrim stated that in May alone, there were more than 2 million visitors to the 90 million articles that are available for free from Trove's nearly 400 newspaper titles.

''Newspapers are the eyes and ears of communities and an essential information resource," Pilgrim told the source. ''Through Trove, people will be able to search and browse across every page and article of The Canberra Times from 1926 to 1995. By providing online access to the nation's stories through The Canberra Times we can create a lasting legacy for all Australians."

By leveraging conversion services to make electronic copies of critical records, these cities can greatly improve both the protection and accessibility of information.

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