State Library Receives Grant for Digitization of Historic Maine Newspapers

Maine Newspaper Digitization Project

Microfilm Digitization Image

Augusta - The Maine State Library will digitize over 100,000 pages of historical Maine newspapers and make the content available online as part of a two-year, $275,000 grant announced this week by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The project will involve imaging master microfilm copies of Maine newspapers and optimizing the newly-created digital files so that text of the newspapers can be searched. The digitized content will then be uploaded to the web-based Digital Maine repository at www.digitalmaine.com , and the Library of Congress Chronicling America archive at www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov .

“Digitization of these historic newspapers will greatly enhance access to first-hand accounts of Maine history as it unfolded,” said Maine State Librarian James Ritter. “Anyone with an internet connection will be able to browse the papers or perform a quick keyword search to look for stories about specific people, places or events from the past.”

Any Maine newspaper printed prior to 1923 could be included in the project provided that the master microfilm is available for imaging. Newspapers printed between 1923 and 1962 might also be eligible for digitization, if the publisher is willing to provide a waiver of copyright to permit the content to be imaged and shared.

The Maine State Library is encouraging institutions and individuals holding master microfilm copies of historical Maine newspapers to contact the library if they are interested in having their collection considered for inclusion under this project. Given the limited number of pages funded through the project, not all eligible papers can be imaged at this time. Priority will be assessed on a number of factors including historical value and geographic coverage. Visit www.maine.gov/msl/newspapers for more details and contact information.

Information gathered through this project will update a 1999 Maine State Archives directory of Maine newspaper holdings and provide for an interactive online database to allow users to search newspaper holdings by institution, media format, and availability online.

Urgent Need for Additional Newspaper Digitization Efforts

A significant share of Maine newspapers won’t be imaged through microfilm digitization because quality master film can’t be located or may not have ever been created. Newspapers printed in the late 19th Century and the first half of the 20th Century are at particularly high-risk of permanent loss because of the instability of the paper that they were printed on. Even when stored in optimal conditions, the acid in the newsprint will cause the paper to become brittle over time.

“Some original copies of Maine newspapers are so fragile that they can’t be handled without causing permanent damage,” said Adam Fisher, director of Collections Development and Digital Initiatives at the Maine State Library. “There’s an urgent need to get quality images of these papers today before the information contained in them is lost to time.”

Although the Maine State Library does not have permanent staff or dedicated revenues for digitization, the institution has developed a partnership or sponsorship model that led to the digitization of bound original volumes of historical newspapers using high-resolution book scanners located at the library’s offices at the Maine State Capitol Complex in Augusta.

Earlier this year, the Maine State Library partnered with Friends of Libby Memorial Library in Old Orchard Beach to digitize two local newspapers from the past, the Old Orchard Apple and the Old Orchard Mirror. Contents of those papers can be found online at www.digitalmaine.com/old_orchard. The Maine State Library is now engaged in a similar project with the Oquossoc –based Maine Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum and the Phillips Historical Society to digitize the Maine Woods newspaper published between 1900 and 1909. Copies of those papers will be available online later this year.

“The process of imaging larger format papers on book scanners more of a challenge for us, but the end result is far better than microfilm in both image quality and text searchability,” said Fisher. “What we need now, more than anything, is for individuals or institutions to come forward to sponsor a newspaper digitization project to ensure permanent public access to the information contained in these historical treasures.”

For more information about Maine State Library digitization services, contact 207-287-5626 or email adam.fisher@maine.gov.

Supporting documents

Microfilm Digitization Image