21 March 2007

Canadian newspapers languish on microfilm

Searching in the online version of the Globe and Mail on the off-chance of finding reference to a man named Gregson, who married in Toronto in 1915, one of the hits appeared to be him. He was running for city council in Peterborough, which was his residence at time of marriage. It was yet another confirmation for me of the value of digitized historic newspapers for genealogy and family history.

A new US site with digitized newspapers came online in beta this week. Chronicling America allows you to search and read newspaper pages from 1900-1910 for papers from California, District of Columbia, Florida, Kentucky, New York, Utah, and Virginia. Each state had a target of 100,000 pages. These are the results of projects which started in May 2005. The initiative is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

There are other US collections. Two are mentioned in the most recent Rootsweb Review. From the Northern New York State Library Network come 550,000 pages from twenty-two newspapers. The other, www.fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html, worked only intermittently when I tried but claims "over 2,725,000 Old Upstate, Western & Central NY Newspaper Pages."

Meanwhile the British Library are continuing with their newspaper digitization project for a virtual library of nationally, regionally and locally important papers from 1800-1900, up to two million pages. It's scheduled to appear in mid-year. This builds on a pilot project with Olive Software.

In Canada we have Paper of Record of which I wrote recently, but where is Canada's national strategy for historic newspaper digitization, especially for local papers? It seems to fall under the mandate of the Alouette Canada project. There are good people involved, although not many clients. In these days of social networking you'd think the web site would have some capability for input from a broader community.

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