Library DrawingThe CONNector

NOVEMBER 2001Volume 3 Number 4

Scanning Newspapers

Digital imaging, often called scanning can greatly enhance access but is not considered a method to provide long term preservation Creating a library of digital images and providing the resources and expertise to make and keep them accessible is a big project. The Northeast Document Conservation Center provides a leaflet called "Digital technology made simpler" by Paul Conway that introduces these issues.

A weakness of digital images is in the uncertain availability of equipment and software to view the images. The computer industry continually introduces new hardware and software and a company may need to replace their equipment every three to five years. At this rate, digital images may be unreadable in a decade unless care is taken to make them compatible with the new technology. Margaret Hedstrom, professor at the Univ. of Michigan School of Library and Information Studies, reviews the challenges of preserving information in digital form in "Digital Preservation: A Time Bomb for Digital Libraries".

At the present time, microfilm is cheaper to store in the long run, takes up less space than the originals, is easily and cheaply duplicated, and lasts longer than any electronic storage system available today. For digital images, a microfilm back-up is still considered appropriate. In addition, projects to scan newspapers have so far found it preferable to work from the microfilm rather than the originals. An article by Alan Howell called "Film Scanning of Newspaper Collections: International Initiatives" in RLG DigiNews describes three such projects.

Access to Newspapers Increased with 2000th Reel of Microfilm

Jane Cullinane, Preservation Librarian

The July-August 1897 issues of the Morning News of New Haven constitute the 2000th reel of microfilm produced by the Connecticut Newspaper Project (CNP). CNP began to survey, catalog, and inventory all American newspapers in every known Connecticut newspaper repository in 1989 and then began selecting and preparing some of these newspapers for preservation microfilming in 1995. Following the inspection and approval of our 2000th reel of film, CNP will have saved the content of 364 titles. The 2000th reel also marks the filming of 980,256 pages of newspapers representing 79 towns in Connecticut. The goal is to film 1,094,362 pages by April 2002.

Preservation microfilming is still considered the most reliable and cost effective method for preserving the content of newspapers. Current standards for preservation microfilming use very stringent benchmarks in order to ensure legibility. The camera negative, properly made and properly stored, is expected to survive 500 years. From it, a duplicate negative is made from which service copies for libraries are produced - and reproduced when wear and tear make the original service copies unusable.

Many of the original newspaper issues could still be used by researchers, but further handling may damage the fragile paper and precious text. Microfilm allows researchers to have access to the information without putting stress on the originals. Most lending libraries put their originals in storage and ask researchers to use the microfilm. The originals are saved for those rare occasions when the microfilm is inadequate. A few newspaper titles are in such poor condition that the filming process is considered the last use of the paper issues themselves. CNP returns all borrowed newspapers to the lending libraries who want them back and has in most cases been successful in finding new homes for those originals the lenders no longer want.

Photo of paper to be preserved.
This fragile page will be preserved and will be more accessible after filming

Perhaps a million pages of newspapers will still need to be microfilmed when the Connecticut Newspaper Project ends in April 2002. Many of these will be weekly newspapers that began in 1950. Even today, many local newspapers are not being preserved. Local libraries, historical societies, and other organizations interested in filming their town newspapers should contact Karen Nadeski, Project Librarian, Connecticut Newspaper Project, by email or at 860-757-6527 for information on how to work with a microfilming vendor.

The Connecticut Newspaper Project is a joint effort with funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Connecticut State Library. Many institutions have cooperated in the cataloging, inventory and microfilming phases. More information on the Newspaper Project can be found online.

More information about Connecticut newspaper resources at the State Library can be found at online. This includes a section on how to borrow State Library microfilm through Interlibrary Loan. Other libraries in the state may also own copies of the film. Holdings of Connecticut repositories can be discovered through the statewide catalog "reQuest".

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