Oregon newspapers, 1860-1922, going digital

Karen Estlund, UO LibrariesEUGENE, Ore. -- (June 29, 2009) -- Oregon history, from 1860 to 1922, as chronicled by the state's newspapers will be digitized for public access under a $364,042 grant to the University of Oregon from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress.

With matching grants totaling $145,000 from the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office and Oregon Heritage Commission through the Oregon Cultural Trust, the project to digitize 100,000 pages of Oregon newspapers will add to an already "long history of collaboration with the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association," said Karen Estlund, digital collections coordinator for the UO's Knight Library, who will head the statewide Oregon Digital Newspaper Project.

The program will deliver access for people who can't get to a library to use microfilm, Estlund said. "The full text available with the digitized images allows for keyword searching, which revolutionizes research of old newspapers. No longer will a researcher need to spend hours, days or even weeks scrolling through microfilm hoping to catch what they're looking to find."

Beginning in 1953, the Knight Library started the Oregon Newspaper Program in association with ONPA to microfilm all of Oregon's newspapers for preservation. The new project took root earlier this year under a Library Services & Technology block grant of $79,883 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Oregon State Library in Salem.

"Historic newspapers supply vital evidence of our history and culture and are used by students, scholars, historians, arts groups, businesses, urban planners, genealogists and others," Estlund said. "These primary source materials provide a window into the life of local Oregon communities a century or more ago, covering early environmental preservation, industry, agriculture, urban development, Native American and race relations, the establishment of the state and more."

In announcing the federal grant to the UO and institutions in six other states on June 16, the NEH and Library of Congress officials said that the Chronicling America Web site -- a free, national, searchable database of historic American newspaper pages published between 1880 and 1922 -- had posted its one millionth Web page. The site was launched in March 2007. Institutions in 22 states are now involved in the project.

Currently, Chronicling America contains historic newspaper content from 11 states and the District of Columbia. It will eventually contain 20 million pages of historic American newspapers from 1836 to 1922 and offer educational essays on every title represented and a directory of all newspapers published in the United States from 1690 to the present.