University of North Texas receives funds to add to National Digital Newspaper Program

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The University of North Texas is one of eight universities in the nation - and the only one from Texas - to receive a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to digitize Texas newspapers for the National Digital Newspaper Program, "Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers."

The National Digital Newspaper Program, or NDNP, is a long-term effort from NEH and the Library of Congress to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with select digitization of historic papers, as well as information about newspapers from 1690 to the present. During the next 20 years, NDNP will create a national digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 in all 50 states and U.S. territories.

The UNT Libraries received a two-year, $397,552 grant from NEH, which was designated a "We The People" project for promoting knowledge and understanding of American history and culture.

With the grant, the UNT Libraries' Digital Projects Unit will digitize 100,000 pages of newspapers published in Texas between 1880 and 1910, placing the files on the Library of Congress web site. At the same time, the files will be placed on the UNT Libraries' Portal to Texas History, which provides students and others with a digital gateway to collections in Texas libraries, museums, archives, historical societies and private collections. The portal contains primary source materials, including maps, books, manuscripts, diaries, photographs and letters.

Dreanna Belden, coordinator of grants and development for the UNT libraries, said the newspaper pages will join 1896 editions of the Ferris Wheel on the Portal. The newspaper served Ferris, Texas, in Ellis County. Belden pointed out that newspapers from the late 19th- and early 20th-centuries are valued by historians.

"Newspapers of that era covered significant Texas events, such as the Galveston hurricane in 1900 and the Spindletop field near Beaumont, which produced the first oil gusher in 1901," she said.

Other historical events between 1880 and 1910 included the Southern Pacific Railroad reaching El Paso in 1881, the Texas State Fair debuting in Dallas in 1886 and the chartering of the Texas Equal Rights Association after a statewide women suffrage convention in 1893.

Cathy Hartman, the UNT Libraries' assistant dean for digital and information technologies, said newspapers of that time were also very "community-specific," often listing information on visiting relatives or accomplishments of community residents.

"Editors also used the newspapers to promote business in their communities," she said.

Hartman and Beldon said they will follow the Library of Congress' guidelines for selecting newspapers that will be archived on the Library of Congress web site, selecting publications to provide broad demographic coverage of Texas between 1880 and 1910.

"The population centers were different at that time. Corsicana was then a major city," Beldon said.

Hartman said another selection guideline is that the newspapers be published continuously between 1880 and 1910. Research associates at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for American History, or CAH, and the Texas Tech University Libraries will collaborate with the Willis Library on the project, with the CAH staff coordinating an advisory board of historians to select the newspapers that are historically significant and both institutions providing access to their microfilm collections.

"It's really exciting to add this to the portal," she said. "We already have more than 70 partners that have provided content, and 100,000 pages of newsprint will be a huge addition."

Once the two-year NEH grant expires, the Digital Projects Unit plans to reapply for the funds and seek additional funding to place smaller community newspapers online.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108