[Heritage] Historic Oregon newspapers go online

Heritage Info heritage.info at state.or.us
Thu Jul 28 09:45:53 PDT 2011

EUGENE, Ore. -- On Feb. 4, 1910, the headline across the Medford Mail
Tribune's front page announced "United States At Mercy of Foreigners."
The story, based on the Army's General's Staff report, warned that the
Japanese could land 100,000 troops on the U.S. Pacific Coast in three
weeks, and the Germans "a trained army of 200,000" on the east coast.

That's just one look-back-into-time experience to be pulled from more
than 180,000 pages from 18 Oregon newspapers now available online
through the University of Oregon newly launched website Historic Oregon

The website, made possible through the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program
(ODNP), is the culmination of more than two years of work by program
staff at the UO Libraries, in collaboration with the Library of
Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities and a number of state
agencies and stakeholders. 

The site provides unprecedented access to "first-draft" historical
materials originally published by Oregon journalists between 1846 and
1922, program officials said. 

"These primary source materials provide a unique window into the life
of Oregon communities a century or more ago,” said Jason Stone, ODNP
project manager. “In their own voices, early Oregonians tell the story
of the state's industrial, agricultural and social development. We can
revisit the ways that people in our state viewed and responded to major
national and international news events of the day. There is also a great
deal of information on topics such as race relations in early Oregon,
the woman's suffrage movement, the pioneer days, Native peoples,
urbanization, the emergence of environmental values … the list goes on
and on.”

Historic Oregon Newspapers was created using open source software
developed by the Library of Congress. UO programmers helped troubleshoot
the code and were the first to implement it outside of the Library of
Congress. A separate blog site provides project updates and examples of
studies users might do, including June 1 entry focusing on "Hawaiians in
Northwest History."

Content at Historic Oregon Newspapers is drawn from widely circulated
titles like the Portland Oregonian and Salem Capital Journal,
short-lived regional papers like the Sumpter Miner and Jacksonville
Oregon Sentinel, and community-of-interest titles such as the first
African-American paper in the state, the Portland New Age, and Abigail
Scott Duniway’s suffragist journal, the New Northwest.

While microfilm continues to be the preservation and archival medium of
choice for newspapers, it has long presented serious issues of access
and research value for the public. Comprehensive microfilm collections
are often beyond the means of local libraries. And even when a copy of
the film can be located, a researcher must spend hours, days, or even
weeks scanning through the filmed pages, hoping to catch a glimpse of
sought-after information.

Navigating the Historic Oregon Newspapers website will be simpler and
more intuitive for most computer users. All the digitized newspaper
pages have undergone a process of optical character recognition, in
which bit-mapped texts on scanned page images are analyzed and converted
to vector-based characters.

This conversion allows other computers to read the output text,
allowing for rapidly completed keyword searches.

“Having the ability to keyword search has dramatically improved the
potential to use historical newspapers for research,” said Karen
Estlund, ODNP director and head of Digital Library Services for UO
Libraries. “The data provided are not only useful for the casual
researcher but also provide extensive data-mining possibilities to
analyze trends in history.”

The utility of this resource already is being appreciated. “I'm
really enjoying using the site. It is a tremendous help for a heavy
newspaper researcher like me,” said Kimberly Jensen, professor of
history and gender studies at Western Oregon University. Cricket Soules,
a volunteer researcher for the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery, agreed.
“The same information it took us three hours to find on microfilm,
we found in under 30 seconds using keyword searching on the website.”

Essays with background information about each of the selected newspaper
titles also available on the site, along with brief tutorials on
searching and browsing, lesson planning materials for K-12 educators and
answers to frequently asked questions.

Beginning in 1953, the UO Libraries started the Oregon Newspaper
Program to microfilm the state's newspapers for preservation. The
web-digitalization project took root in 2009 under a Library Services &
Technology block grant of $79,883 from the Institute of Museum and
Library Services through the Oregon State Library in Salem. It was
expanded by a $365,393 grant from the National Endowment for the
Humanities for the National Digital Newspaper Program, an additional
$246,880 under the Oregon Library Services & Technology program, and by
matching grants totaling $181,046 from the Oregon State Historic
Preservation Office and the Oregon Heritage Commission through the
Oregon Cultural Trust

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