Computers and other advanced technology has become part and parcel of our present day existence. Many academic and non-academic organizations are in the process of digitizing their paper documents via document scanning and conversion. Libraries have started digitizing their books and other ancient valuable documents whereas museums are digitizing manuscripts, artifacts and other materials. In the future, historians will glory in a largely digital historical record that will change the way of research is done and the past is preserved. Documents that are converted into digital format will enable easy accessibility, flexibility and manipulability of the resources. Once the digitized materials are placed online, it becomes easy for people to access information from anywhere at any time. It helps preserve the originals and also helps reduce handling damages for publicly available documents.
In this regard, newspaper digitization is a very important process since newspapers record national culture and history.They are very valuable to genealogists because of the wealth of information they contain about individuals, social events, military services, church activities, occupations, legal notices, businesses, land sales, taxation etc of those days. Local newspapers even reveal information about people and families that may not be otherwise recorded. Converting these documents into digital format prevents the loss of valuable historical resources.
The Historical Society of Cecil County is making its vast collection of old newspapers much more accessible through digitization. Alan Gardner, society volunteer, digitized several years’ worth of The Cecil County Star, the Rising Sun Home Journal and the Rising Sun Journal newspapers that have been made fully searchable. These newspapers are available at the society. He also completed scanning two decades of the Midland Journal, (1928 – 1946) also printed in the Rising Sun,and two years of the Cecil Democrat (1911 -1912), completing the society’s Cecil Democrat digital collection between 1909 and 1923.
The digitized materials are stored in CDs and are easily searchable. Information regarding events that occurred between late 1920s and mid 1940s includes:
- Great Depression
- World War II
- The fall of the Iron Curtain across Europe and the rise of the Greatest Generation
Now here are some factors that contribute to the digitization drive in all sectors.
- Information explosion: There is so much of valuable data being generated today that needs to be aptly preserved
- Lack of storage space: Paper documents need a lot of storage space. This is another factor that supports digitization. Electronic files can be stored in databases that are easily accessible.
- Environmental factors such as flooding, fire etc that destroy valuable documents
- The new generation wants easy access to documents through the internet
- Searching problem in traditional libraries
- Cost incurred in maintaining traditional libraries
A library that is digitized is not limited by physical boundaries because different users can access the same information from any part of the world, at any time. The cost of maintaining a digital library is also less than that required for a traditional library. Document scanning companies have an important role to play in this era of digitization. They are experienced in handling old documents and manuscripts without causing any damage. Services are provided in keeping with the particular requirements of clients. Even large volume scanning and document conversion can be performed without compromising accuracy and clarity.