WA Secretary of State Blogs

WSL Receives NEH Newspaper Digitization Grant

The Washington State Library (WSL) recently received a National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) grant. Washington’s NDNP grant is managed by the Research & Development (R&D) team within the State Library and will fund the digitization of 100,000 newspaper pages from microfilm.

NDNP is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and is managed in part by the Library of Congress (LC). The NDNP is an initiative that began in 2005 and “builds on the foundation established by an earlier NEH initiative: the United States Newspaper Program (USNP).”

Library of Congress: Chronicling America site
Library of Congress: Chronicling America site

LC hopes to eventually have all historic American newspapers available online and searchable from their Chronicling America website.  

To accomplish Washington’s grant, we are working in partnership with the University of Washington Libraries and other academic and public libraries around the state. The main goal of the grant is to make the newspaper pages full-text searchable using OCR technology. Another important goal is to generate a sustainable and collaborative model for newspaper digitization in Washington State that can continue and build around the state, past this initial grant.

To find out more about Washington’s involvement in NDNP visit WA National Digital Newspaper Program Wiki or contact Laura Robinson, NDNP Coordinator at the Washington State Library.

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2 Responses to “WSL Receives NEH Newspaper Digitization Grant”

  1. This, in my opinion, is one of the most exciting projects in which the state library is involved. I’ve been using the Library of Congress site for about a year now in researching the Seattle world’s fair of 1909, and it’s really a radical improvement over the old way of searching through old papers. Imagine — instead of going through reels of microfilm, hunting for the one article that interests you and probably missing it because of eyestrain, you can type in a search term and instantly see all the newspaper pages that mention it. A search that would have taken months — and which would probably have never been done — now takes a few seconds. Until this LOC project went online, would I ever have thought to look for articles about a Seattle event in the Amador (Calif.) Ledger? Not on your life. And I didn’t have to make a special trip to the library to do it. So far the only fairly complete west-coast daily paper of note on the LOC site is the San Francisco Call, from 1890 to 1910. This at least provides us with specific dates of news events that took place in the Pacific Northwest, because it picked up a fair percentage of the AP west-coast wire. But once the Washington state papers go up — wow! One other fascinating thing about this project is that the image quality is far superior to the scans individual users can make from the microfilm scanning machines now in common use at libraries. Yeah, I might wish that back numbers of still-extant papers were included, though I realize that’s not within the parameters of the project. (I gather that the LOC was hoping still-existing newspapers might take on the work themselves, though that now seems a forlorn hope.) And I might wish that a few other interesting-and-defunct Washington papers were included in the first batch — the Seattle Daily News, the Seattle Union Record, and The Argus, for example. But the only real problem with the project is that the scanning isn’t already completed and the whole thing wasn’t posted online, like, yesterday. And I guess that if there’s a message I might provide to the folks at the state library — the Library of Congress site is slowly being discovered by word of mouth; there actually are a fair number of us already using it, and we’re looking forward to seeing it expand.

    Erik Smith
    Olympia, Wash.

  2. Hi Erik,

    Yay, another historic newspaper fan! We actually have included some still-extent papers in our list. For example, we just finished scanning the Yakima Herald for NDNP.

    If you’re curious as to which titles we’ve added for this round check out our project wiki: http://wiki.secstate.wa.gov/ndnp/Newspaper%20Titles.ashx

    We plan on announcing more about the project as titles go online. As and FYI – we did put out a press release about our NDNP award last year but alas, no local or other newspapers picked it up. It’s a tough time for local news these days.

    On a similar note, we do have some earlier papers already scanned and online at the Washington State Library. If you haven’t seen it, be sure to visit our Historic Newspapers in Washington database: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx

    Laura Robinson