Public Library Week: Newspapers on Microfilm at Your Local Library

microfilm

Greetings, all!

This week marks Public Library Appreciation Week, and a great opportunity to shed light on opportunities to access newspapers through your local library.

The State Library of Alaska may be a government library, but we share in the mission of public libraries everywhere to make newspapers available to the public.

While many public libraries offer local and national newspapers to browse free of charge, some centralized public libraries hold microfilm copies of archived papers. Microfilm reels can even be accessed remotely: many libraries are able to ship reels of microfilm to a patron’s local library (provided it has a microfilm reader available).

Public libraries are, for many patrons, their first exposure to the greater library world, and an invaluable resource for much more than just books. Check out which newspaper titles are available through your local public library today!

 

 

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New Title on Chronicling America: Seward gateway daily edition and the Alaska weekly post

Hello all,

This week, Chronicling America updated their list of Alaska newspaper titles and added one more: The Seward gateway daily edition and the Alaska weekly post

Seward Gateway 1

Throughout its publication, the Seward gateway changed title and frequency, offering both daily and weekly issues. For this paper, we had access to one issue of the Seward gateway daily edition and the Alaska weekly post, which is treated as its own newspaper title. Although only a single issue, this paper can shed light on what life was like January 24, 1918 in Seward- and the rest of the world.

Because today is Election Day, one article in this issue highlighted voter registration in Alaska, then still a territory. Alaska voters could cast their ballots for local politicians and territorial representatives, and for state-wide initiatives. Not until Alaska became a state in 1959 could its citizens participate in national elections.

Citizens Can Register for Next Election: Registration Books Are Now Open At Seward Drug Co.- Councilmen and Other Officers Will Be Elected First of April; Seward citizens can now register for the spring election to be held for city officials on the first Tuesday in April. The registration book is opened at the Seward Drug Co., where City Clerk Pochlman can be found. Registration will close on March 30th but the book is opened early in order to save the rush as the last days. To register for the city election one must have been in the territory for one year and in Seward for six months prior to the election date. At the next election three councilmen will be chosen mayor, treasurer, city clerk and city attorney. The retiring councilmen are Messrs. Sexton, Sauers and Dubreil. So far little has been started in the way of politics and no announcements have been made from prospective candidates.

Image credit: The Seward gateway daily edition, and the Alaska weekly post. (Seward, Alaska), 24 Jan. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn87062016/1918-01-24/ed-1/seq-1/>

Unlike current voting registration in Alaska, in which one need only demonstrate residency through a government-issued photo identification, Alaska residents had to have lived in the territory for one year, and in Seward itself for at least six months before the election.

If you are registered to vote today, November 6, please exercise your right to vote in the midterm election and make your voice heard!

 

Project Update: Funding Approved!

Hooray! Hoopla!

Image credit: The daily morning Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 18 March 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Hello all,

Exciting news on the project front: a representative from the National Endowment for the Humanities contacted the Alaska State Library to notify us that we have been approved for an additional funding cycle from 2018 through 2020. This means that we can continue to produce content for Chronicling America and make historic Alaska newspapers online and text-searchable, free of charge.

In addition, we recently received a phone call from the office of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski congratulating us on the work in progress, and on the project thus far.

Work has already started on this next cycle, as we are continuing to digitize and input metadata for the National Digital Newspaper Program.

From all of us at the Alaska State Library, we are thrilled to continue this project for another round, and for patrons to be able to search historic Alaska newspapers online.

Update: 4 New Alaska Newspapers Available to View on Chronicling America!

digitized newspapers

Greetings all,

Exciting news! As of this week, Chronicling America has made available 4 new Alaska newspapers, available here: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/?state=Alaska&ethnicity=&language=.

These include:

The Cordova daily times: October 1, 1920 – April 14, 1923

The Alaska citizen: April 9, 1910 – October 1, 1917

The Weekly Alaska citizen: October 8, 1917 – December 31, 1917

The Daily Alaska citizen:  October 31, 1918 – January 30, 1920

Within the coming months, we are expecting additional new titles and more pages added to Chronicling America. And as always, we will provide any updates as they come in.

Happy searching!

 

Newsprint as a Preservation Priority

Greetings, all!

The nature of newsprint preservation is a race against time. Like nearly all historic documents, decay is inevitable, but with newsprint, that threat comes faster. Why is this? The answer comes in the way in which it is processed.

Inherent Vice

Not just the title of a Thomas Pynchon novel, the term “inherent vice” refers to an item’s low-quality materials that hasten its decay- a term that perfectly describes the properties of newspaper. The durability and longevity of paper relies on its fiber. Unlike paper made from cotton fibers (such as paper money made from long-stranded cloth fiber), newsprint is created from short-stranded wood pulp, the inexpensive byproduct of the paper-making process. The difference in the fiber strand size impacts the breaking point: short strands break more easily than long strands, which leads to more rapid decay:

The cheap pulp and its relatively rapid decay process reflect the ephemeral nature of the medium itself: Who among us has not heard of a newspaper referred to as “fishwrap”? Or heard the term “Yesterday’s news”? Or have even heard of seedy paperback novels as referred to as “pulp fiction”?

But to those who work to preserve the medium, there is intrinsic value in retaining original newspaper copies. While best practices dictate displaying digital copies of newspapers or articles that have been printed out, such as these from the recent Princess Sophia shipwreck centennial at the Alaska State Museum…

IMG-7880

Curators chose to display a physical copy of the Nome Tri-Weekly Nugget in the Princess Sofia exhibit to display the magnitude of the printed names of the passengers who died on board the ship:

Sophia Newspaper

100 years later, one can see the extent of decay from the brittle, yellowed quality of the paper. But it certainly packs an emotional punch.

Solutions?

To stave off the slow burn of newsprint, preservationists turned to microfilm starting as early as the 1950s. Microfilm started to be used widely in libraries in the 1970s as a way to condense larger documents, and therefore use less space. Newspapers stored on microfilm was an ideal solution to the issues surrounding both storage and preservation, and are still in wide use today. However, quality control is a must. As discussed in last week’s post, if there are any filming errors, and the physical newspaper has been destroyed, there is no way to re-create a microfilm copy.

At the Alaska State Library, we still keep original copies of newspapers for just this reason. Boxes of newspapers lie flat in the vault kept at 50 degrees Fahrenheit. For the most part (with the exception for the display of historical artifacts), the only light exposure the paper receives is through a BookEye machine to create a digital copy, if no microfilm issue exists.

Microfilm itself is not a perfect medium. Master reels need to be held in cold storage (ASL keeps the temperature at a chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit). The reels of silver nitrate and the chemicals used to create images can be very expensive. So what comes next?

For many libraries, the future of historic newspapers is to create a digital platform, which is what Chronicling America is creating. State institutions and libraries are creating digital interfaces of their own: the Arizona Memory Project stands out as a way forward in creating an accessible web-based platform for its historic newspapers.

Given the importance of historic newspapers as primary sources, it is vital that archives and historical collections make newspaper preservation a priority. The medium does not make this easy, but by working from copies saved in cold storage and on microfilm, we are making headway in making newspapers digitally accessible. Not bad for a bunch of chopped-up wood pulp!

 

Microfilm Quality Control: Or, What Can Possibly Go Wrong?

Greetings, all!

Last week, we provided an update on the re-filming the Nome Nugget. To delve a bit deeper in the topic, I’d like to share some background on the process of filming newspaper- specifically, what we look for in controlling the quality of newspaper images.

Human Error

When looking through microfilm, an occasional, unexpected sight appears:

microfilm invader

(Photo credit: Historical Tennessee Newspapers on Pinterest)

Hands and fingers secure pages when shooting an image, and at worst can cover text in an image and make it difficult to read. This problem is not limited to newspapers, however. Eagle-eyed readers on Google Books have compiled several instances of imaging tech’s fingers, such as these ones:

tumblr_n0lb28U6ED1qixa76o1_1280

Photo credit: The Art of Google Books Tumblr

Some of these errors are linked to the need to speed up production, at the expense of overall image quality. (The Google Books project has its share of images that document unexpected findings within its digital pages: theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com)

Moire

Have you ever tried to take a photo of something on a computer screen? If so, then you’re familiar with the pattern that appears in these images:

moirenewspaper

There’s a name for that effect: Moire. It’s a pattern formed by two sets of parallel lines slightly distorted:

Moiré_pattern.svg

(Photo credit: Wikimedia commons)

This term is also used in the world of fashion as a type of effect with fabric often seen in silk and damask worn in portraits of noblemen and women.

In addition, another type of fabric, called shot silk, combines two colors, one on the warp (the top of the weave) another on the weft (the side of the weave), to create a color-changing effect depending on where the light hits it:

Salzburg_Mattes_2013-08-03_(31)

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Similarly, when taking a photo of a computer screen, frequencies create a visual effect.

When images are filmed on the Book Eye or the Mekel microfilming machine, they are filmed without a digital interface, and therefore without the moire effect.

Book/Newspaper errors

These errors pose an interesting question: when filming, how much of the actual document should people see? For instance, filmed fingers on pages or handwritten marginalia or entire articles cut out allows the reader to view the document not as a newspaper in a vacuum, but as a copy that others have held and read in the past.

We at the National Digital Newspaper Project do our best to provide newspaper images from original microfilm- and many times the images show marginalia on the pages (usually to correct the dates or issue numbers). One could argue that these errors recreate an experience we’re more accustomed to when dealing with physical objects: stains, marginalia, bookmarks, and even pressed flowers come into play in this digital format. More often than not, an actual person is the one opening the pages and shooting the images. These errors, then, allow us to see the human side of the process.

Many thanks to The Art of Google Books (http://theartofgooglebooks.tumblr.com/) and to Historic Tennessee Newspapers on Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/historictnnews/microfilm-invaders/) !

Stay tuned for next week’s post on newspaper as a preservation priority!

Re-Filming the Nome Nugget

Greetings, all!

Even though production has ended on the 2016-2018 National Digital Newspaper Program cycle, we are still hard at work. One particular area of focus is on the venerable Nome Nugget, the oldest continually published newspaper in Alaska. Our Micrographics department is busy re-filming bound volumes of the Nome Nugget from 1911-1924 to include on Chronicling America. The current state of its microfilm is rather poor, as you can see here:

Nome Nugget 1900

Fortunately, the Alaska State Library still has issues of the Nome Nugget from which to shoot better microfilm copies. These issues come in large bound volumes of newsprint, and roughly the size of a standard newspaper today. To film each page, we scan an image on a machine called a Book Eye:

Nome Nugget 1

To capture an image as crisp as possible, we are filming the pages without the glass plate in front. Once the Book Eye scans a page, the image shows up on a screen, which Amber Glen from the Micrographics Department uses to assess the image quality:

Nome Nugget 2

Once an image is saved, we use that digital copy to compile into a master microfilm reel once a volume has been scanned in its entirety. Thanks to her efforts, and those of everyone in the Micrographics Department at the Alaska State Library, we now have high-resolution digital images that will one day be text-searchable on Chronicling America. In other words, a drastic change from images like these:

Nome Nugget 1912 A

To sharper, more legible pages like this:

Nome Nugget 1912 B

Stay tuned for next week’s post on microfilming quality control!