A new source of information is available for students, scholars, genealogists, and Louisiana history buffs. The LSU Libraries announces the availability of six historical Louisiana newspapers online from its Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project. The six–The Carrollton Sun, the Louisiana Democrat, the Ouachita Telegraph, The Morning Star and Catholic Messenger, the West Feliciana Sentinel, and the Feliciana Sentinel—are available for searching online at Chronicling America, a website hosted by the Library of Congress. They are the first installment in a collection that, by September 2011, will include 100,000 pages from more than 50 Louisiana newspapers.
The digitization project was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to LSU Libraries’ Special Collections division in 2009. The LSU Libraries have been microfilming Louisiana newspapers since the 1940s and hold the most comprehensive collection of Louisiana newspapers in existence. “We applied for the grant because we wanted to make Louisiana newspapers more accessible,” said Elaine Smyth, head of the LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. “Microfilm is a great preservation method, but it’s hard to use, and there are no indexes to the papers. Now, thanks to the grant, people will be able to explore the content of these historical newspapers, for free, anywhere they have online access. They can search for place names, family names, or topical keywords, like yellow fever or suffrage. It’s a great resource for teachers at any level, as well as genealogists and historians.”
An Advisory Board made up of experts in Louisiana history, including teachers, archivists, and a journalist, selected titles for inclusion in this two-year project. The terms of the grant specified digitizing newspapers published between 1860 and 1922 in English only. “Our Advisory Board steered the selection,” said Gina Costello, Co-Director of the project, “while the LSU Libraries team made sure the microfilm was in good condition so that the scans would be as keyword searchable as possible.” Project Librarian Athena Jackson coordinated the selection process. “Our goal as a first-time recipient of this grant was to have comprehensive geographical coverage within the time period,” said Jackson. “When the project is complete in 2011, 24 parishes representing every major region in Louisiana will be included.” The entire list of titles chosen for the Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project is available at http://www.lib.lsu.edu/special/cc/dlnp/titleslist.html. In addition to the browsable and keyword searchable newspapers, the Chronicling America website includes a short history of each Louisiana newspaper written by Michael Taylor, the assistant curator of books for Special Collections. Additional newspaper titles and essays will be added quarterly.
“Historic newspapers are still the great untapped primary source for our history,” notes John Sykes, Education Manager at the Louisiana State Museum. “Without indexes, confined to microfilm reels, these early newspapers have been forgotten for too long. The Digitizing Louisiana Newspaper Project is changing all that—and giving us easy access to these forgotten resources.”
Search Louisiana newspapers here: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages/
Athena N. Jackson, Project Manager – Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers