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$186K Grant Will Help Rutgers Digitize Jersey Newspaper Archives

NJ Joins Maine and Alaska in Nationwide Initiative to Catalog Century-Worth of News
Daily Home News
The Daily Home News, one of the predecessors to today's Home News Tribune newspaper. NBFPL

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—It’s safe to say New Jersey has no shortage of marquee news.

Among the Garden State’s “firsts,” for instance, have been becoming the first state to prohibit discrimination, as well as inventing and manufacturing lightbulbs, the telegraph and mass producing medicines like streptomycin and tetracycline.

In the spirit of making New Jersey’s rich contribution to culture, politics, innovation and society more readily available, Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives and the New Jersey State Library have partnered to launch the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project.

The project aims to archive the expansive history of New Jersey's headlines throughout the years onto the Library of Congress’ website and is being made possible through a $186,204 grant provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The project will take two years to complete, and catalog at least 100,000 pages of newspapers originally published between 1836 and 1922 and not currently available online.

“Our goals are ambitious,” said Ron Becker, head of special collections and university archives at Rutgers University Libraries.  Becker said the project's advisory board is meeting in September to decide which newspapers "are in greatest need of digitization."

“We will focus on influential newspapers and historically important news or themes to maximize the benefit to users of Chronicling America,” said Becker, who hopes to have the first batch of 25,000 pages complete by October 2017.

Becker explained that the plan is to scan existing microfilm from the New Jersey State Archives in order to create searchable digital files available on Chronicling America, a part of the Library of Congress’ website.

Currently, some older local newspapers such as the Daily Home News are archived online thanks to the efforts of local libraries.

“From the Whig Papers to The Star-Ledger, New Jersey has a strong tradition of journalism,” Becker said.

“Prior to this digitization project, historians would travel to the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton or to a similar research institution and scroll through microfilm to find what they need,” explained Becker.

"Having this material at their fingertips in a searchable, digital format will be tremendously beneficial to those who study and write about the history of New Jersey."

Besides New Jersey, which prior to the grant was one of eleven states not archived online on Chronicling America, Alaska, Colorado and Maine have become recipients this year as well.

“Rutgers University Libraries is incredibly proud to participate in the National Digital Newspaper Program and to make the state’s historical media available to anyone, anywhere in the world,” said Krisellen Maloney, vice president for information services and university librarian at Rutgers University.

“Caryn Radick and her colleagues are to be commended for bringing this home for Rutgers and for the state of New Jersey.”