July 23, 2003 — Anyone who has spent time researching newspapers in front of a microfilm reader, loading reel after reel into a machine, will now be able to quickly and easily access digitized historic Utah newspapers through personal computers by entering a simple keyword into an Internet search engine. It’s as easy as point and click.
Researchers, historians, genealogists, as well as the general public, can now use the new University of Utah Marriott Library’s Utah Digital Newspapers Web site, which contains 20 digitized newspapers, from 13 Utah counties, printed between 1879 and 1956. The Utah Digital Newspapers site was created by the Marriott Library’s Digital Technologies Division and can be accessed at http://www.lib.utah.edu/digital/unews/ or http://digitalnewspapers.org by August 1.
“You just get drawn into the content,” says John Herbert, director of the project. “You look for something on the Utah Digital Newspapers site; then you see a headline that catches your attention: “Women Who Madden Men,” for example, reprinted in the Wasatch Wave from The London Woman, in October 1896, and, because it is not politically correct today, you get drawn into it.
The Utah Digital Newspapers project was launched in 2002 through a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, administered by the Utah State Library, which funded the development of the digitization process and the loading of the first 30,000 pages. Three newspapers, Wasatch Wave, Vernal Express and Grand Valley Times, were selected, and 10,000 pages of each were loaded onto the Marriott Library’s server last December.
In 2003 the project was again funded with an even larger LSTA grant awarded to the Utah Academic Library Consortium. The project rapidly picked up speed. “We have dramatically expanded the scope of the program, more than tripling its size through August of this year. We’ve added 17 new newspaper titles along with 104,000 pages of content,” notes Herbert.
The digitization process developed at the University of Utah provides high quality images and accurate searching at low costs, putting the U on the leading edge of newspaper digitization, especially at public institutions. The U’s process already serves as a model for other academic libraries across the country. Two commercial partners, iArchives, of Orem, Utah, and DiMeMa, Inc., in Seattle, provide processing and database services and work very closely with the project team on a daily basis.
This year several Utah historians recommended counties with weekly newspapers that should be represented. The top five were Carbon, Summit, Tooele, Juab and Sanpete counties. The 13 new titles included in the digitized collection are Eastern Utah Advocate, Carbon County News, News-Advocate, Park Record, Tooele County Chronicle, Eureka Reporter and Manti Messenger. Other weeklies added to the list were Millard County Chronicle, Emery County Progress, Green River Journal, Washington County News, American Eagle and Murray Eagle.
The other major additions this year were four early predecessors of the Ogden Standard-Examiner, the first daily newspaper in the collection. This portion of the project was funded by a large grant-matching gift from the Weber County Library. The Daily Ogden Junction is the first in the series, dating back to 1879.
Once decisions were made on which newspapers to include, the project team had to locate source materials that could be scanned-either from microfilm contained in the Marriott Library’s collection, one of the most extensive in the state, or from rare, original publications, which are hard to find and often in bad condition. By digging through dusty storage rooms throughout Utah, the project team discovered enough old newspaper collections to scan half of this year’s volume directly from original publications. Kenning Arlitsch, Head of Digital Technologies at the Marriott Library and founder of the program, notes, “Though slightly more expensive to process, original hard copies provide much higher image and optical character recognition (OCR) quality than microfilm. That means better images to view and more accurate keyword searching.” In addition, with the help of the Library’s Preservation Department, several older papers that were in bad condition were repaired and restored. Besides the Ogden Standard-Examiner, up to this point, only weekly newspapers have been added to the project, due to the higher expense of processing daily newspapers, which have many more pages. The project team is currently exploring ways, including fund-raising options, to add the early years of The Salt Lake Tribune to the collection. Other Utah libraries are planning to digitize other newspapers and link them to the Web site.
“With this project we can open up this kind of research to a whole new generation of Internet-savvy users. Our eventual goal is to have a robust, statewide collection that will satisfy practically any newspaper researcher’s need,” Herbert explains.