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Program celebrates 1 million newspaper pages in archive
Joshua Knopp / Staff Writer
UNT will celebrate its Portal to Texas History program, which digitizes and stores old newspapers online dating back to 1813, for putting 1 million pages online from 2-4 p.m. today at Willis Library.
The university has been digitizing newspapers since 2007, when it received a grant from the National Digital Newspaper Program to digitize 100,000 pages for two years.
The program also stores photographs, maps and historical letters on the Internet.
The NDNP is a joint effort from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress to get old newspapers preserved on the Internet. UNT has received two more grants from the program since completing the first, but the school has also branched out for other projects since then.
“We’ve learned how to do newspapers through our NDNP grant and working with the Library of Congress,” said IT specialist Ana Krahmer, who works on the program. “We have a few different private foundations and local groups like the Texas State Library and Archives Commission that have funded different projects, depending on what they want to do.”
Krahmer said that while the program has done about 250,000 pages for the Library of Congress, most of its pages have been for other sources.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has paid for 58,747 pages. Ae
nd the Tocker Foundation, which is concerned with Texas towns of less than 12,000 residents, has funded 305,456 pages.
The other pages have come from various historical societies and individual towns who wanted their newspapers uploaded.
Project coordinator and art history graduate student Ann Howington said once people contact the school and arrange for their papers to be digitized, she and library specialist Trista Barker begin the digitalization process.
The pages are scanned onto film and then processed for errors before being put online. Barker said that while the machine takes 30 minutes to scan 800-1,000 pages, they can take as much as six hours to process.
“I have to make sure pages are within the box,” she said. “And after that I adjust the contrast so you can actually read what’s on the page.”
Howington said that once the pages make it online they can be searched for individual words. This done through an image-searching program that recognizes how certain words look.
Though digitized newspapers can’t be searched like a word document because text was never formally entered into the computer, searching for pictures of a word can have the same effect. Howington said this, along with getting the pages online in the first place, can help researchers with their projects.
“The only way people could have seen these newspapers in the past was to go to the back and look,” she said. “If you don’t know the exact date and page, you could look forever.”
Barker said the work was important because it provided the best available window into history.
“It’s preserving history,” she said. “Instead of reading a summary in a book, you can see what people were worrying about on a daily basis — see an honest account of how people thought.”
Students can find UNT’s online newspaper database at texashistory.unt.edu.