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LSU Libraries Announces Availability of Six Historical Louisiana Newspapers for Free Online through Digitization Project

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A new source of information is available for students, scholars, genealogists and Louisiana history buffs, as LSU Libraries recently announced the availability of six historical Louisiana newspapers online through its Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project.

The six newspapers – 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 the Chronicling America website, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/search/pages. The website is hosted by the Library of Congress.

The newspapers 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. 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 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, while the LSU Libraries team made sure the microfilm was in good condition so that the scans would be as keyword searchable as possible,” said Gina Costello, co-director of the project.

“Our goal as a first-time recipient of this grant was to have comprehensive geographical coverage within the time period,” said project librarian Athena Jackson, who coordinated the selection process. “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 LSU Libraries’ Special Collections division. 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.”

For more information on LSU Libraries’ Special Collections involvement in the Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers project, contact Jackson at 225-578-6529 or e-mail athenaj@lsu.edu.

Sigrid Kelsey is the Director of Library Communications and Publications at the LSU Libraries.

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