There are two main principles behind the National Digital Newspaper Program which are also cornerstones of library and archival science, ACCESS and PRESERVATION.
Newsprint, especially in older titles, is rapidly deteriorating. Newspapers were not printed with the intention of perpetuation, instead they were a means to distribute current information to a large audience and discard as the newest issues and information became available. In 1982 a joint effort between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress created the U.S. Newspaper Program (USNP). This program recognized the exigent need to preserve the nation’s historical newspapers through microfilming and worked with each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to inventory and film their state and local newspapers.
The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) is a continuation of the earlier USNP, which ended in 2011. The focus of NDNP is to provide greater access to the nation’s newspapers by digitizing the (mostly) already microfilmed titles. The key feature of this new program is the introduction of Chronicling America (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov). Each of the states participating in NDNP send their data and digital images of the digitized newspaper reels to the Library of Congress, who then upload the content into Chronicling America, a text-searchable web-based database, where the public can search and read the now digitized newspapers for FREE.
In addition to sending digital data, each state is also responsible for providing Library of Congress with silver negative copies of the digitized microfilm reels, which are housed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. in perpetuity as an added preservation measure.
Stay tuned for Part II – an explanation of the historical significance and need for preservation of our nation’s newspapers!