Gone are the days when you had to visit a local library to read an old newspaper. Internet and digital technology have access to historical newspapers possible at the click of a button. Today, e-copies of old newspapers are accessible online, proving a valuable resource for genealogists, historians, and other researchers. Scanning and conversion of paper documents to electronic format has made these valuable collections available to worldwide audience.
Historic newspapers are often stored in print format or as microfilm. Paper documents tend to get brittle in the long run and their durability cannot be ensured. Digitization of these collections with advanced scanning equipment can create a resource pool that reflects state and local history. Today, there are many portals on the web that offer access to information by country, geographical region, or title. The National Library of Australia’s Australian Newspapers Online portal that provides access to many of the country’s newspapers by title, state, and town is a good example.
Challenges in Digitizing Historic Newspapers
Scanning and indexing historic newspapers is not an easy task and poses many challenges. These include
- Complex page layout
- Titles with very large letters
- Radical differences in layout over time
- Narrow spaces between lines of text
- ‘Noise’ resulting from dirt on the original paper or from dirt on the scanner lens
- Broken font characters
- Poor microfilming image quality
- Broken vertical and horizontal lines between articles, advertisements, and so on
However, these challenges can be addressed with the help of document imaging and indexing software combined with OCR technology. OCR technology is an important component of document imaging without which the scanned documents will remain photographs of the paper documents. OCR captures the printed matter on the documents and provides a text searchable file with indexes and metadata.
Benefits of Scanning Historic Newspapers
- Users can revisit their past through the digitized archives of old range newspapers
- Researchers can search the database of the digital records with keywords and key dates to access information they want
- In addition to historical knowledge, people can also get a glimpse into what life was like through the advertisements of local businesses which existed at the time
Many states across the U.S. are in the midst of finishing paper collections, expanding microfilm collections or digitizing their existing newspaper collections. Take the Atlantic county library system which has a searchable digitized collection of over 5,000 newspapers covering the happenings at Atlantic County dating from 1860-1923.
The newspaper is one of the few records of defining events in history. It’s no wonder that libraries and other organizations the world over are taking the initiative to preserve newspapers by converting them into electronic format. Professional outsourcing companies are helping them to achieve their goals efficiently and affordably.