Friday, August 25, 2017

Guest post: Historic Alaskan newspapers online with Leah Geibel

Imagine firing up your computer, opening your web browser, and with the click of a button, searching through 100,000 pages of digitized Alaskan historical newspapers from the comfort of your home. Whether for historical research, genealogy, or school projects, this will soon become a reality for Alaskans with the Alaska State Library’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).
National Digital Newspaper Project Coordinator Leah Geibel, with her microfilm reader and project notes.

What is NDNP?
The National Digital Newspaper Program is a joint collaboration by the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities dedicated to preserving and providing access to our nation’s historical newspapers through digitization and inclusion in Chronicling America, a freely accessible web-based text-searchable newspaper database.

AKDNP: Alaska’s Role in NDNP
The Alaska State Library is coming up on one year since its inclusion in NDNP – so what do we have to show for it? First, let’s start with the roles and responsibilities of the library, which will help explain where we are now and where we’re going in the future.

By the end of the grant cycle, in August 2018, the Alaska State Library will have digitized 100,000 pages of Alaskan historical newspapers from across the state ranging in date from 1898-1922. These pages will be sent to Library of Congress in 10,000 page batches which will then be made available free to the public on Chronicling America (see above section). This will involve two sections within the library, Historical Collections and the Micrographics Lab. Micrographics is responsible for creating preservation quality duplicates of all microfilm reels being digitized for the grant which will eventually make their way into the hallowed stacks of the Library of Congress as preservation copies. Historical Collections is in charge of day-to-day management of grant operations ranging from gathering page level metadata from the historical titles chosen, to shipping content to vendors for digitization and performing quality control checks, to managing outreach through social media and creating programs and content aimed at providing instruction awareness of Chronicling America as an instructional resource for researchers, educators, and students.
Jerry Duncan, Microfilm/Imaging Operator, duplicates reels of newspaper microfilm in the lab at the APK. The red light is safe to use without exposing the film.

What titles were selected for digitization and how were they picked?
There was a lot of time spent, effort organizing, and views debated before a final list of titles was chosen. A sixteen member advisory committee comprised of community members diverse in experiences, geographic locations, and professions, but united in their passion for preserving Alaska’s history was tasked with this very important aspect of the project. Several factors influenced their final title selection such as technical specifications provided by Library of Congress, geographic coverage of the paper, completeness of the paper (meaning we weren’t missing huge chunks of its run), date range, and diversity of viewpoints recorded within the paper. With over 300 titles to choose from, 10 were selected for digitization during this grant cycle which the committee members felt were papers of record, had close to complete runs, were diverse in geographical coverage, and fell within the specifications recommended by Library of Congress.
  1. The Alaska daily empire (Juneau, AK ). 1912-1922
  2. Douglas Island news (Douglas City, AK). 1898-1921
  3. The Thlinget (Sitka, AK). 1908-1912
  4. The daily Alaskan (Skagway, AK). 1898-1922
  5. The Nome nugget (Nome, AK). 1901-1922
  6. The Alaska prospector (Valdez, AK). 1902-1918
  7. The Iditarod pioneer (Iditarod, AK). 1910-1919
  8. The Cordova daily times (Cordova, AK). 1914-1922
  9. The Seward gateway (Seward, AK). 1904-1922
  10. The Alaska citizen (Fairbanks, AK). 1910-1920

Where are we now?
The first batch of digitized pages is now available on Chronicling America. It includes 1,206 issues of The Alaska Daily Empire (1912-1918), 448 issues of the Douglas Island News (1898-1907), and 47 issues of The Thlinget (1908-1912). These pages are free to search at You can expect to see new batches of 10,000 pages go up monthly until we reach our 100,000 page limit.

The first page of the first issue of the Douglas Island News, November 23, 1898, viewable on Chronicling America.

Where are we going?

Anastasia Tarmann, the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project Director, has been meeting with educators to bring historic newspapers and other primary sources into the classroom, and plans to support other Alaska institutions with supplementary projects. We plan to continue educating Alaskans and other researchers on navigating Chronicling American and promoting NDNP through exhibits, social media, and public programs. We will also be focusing on reapplying for the next grant cycle, where we hope to extend our title selection to papers covering smaller, more diverse, and underrepresented communities!

Learn More & Follow Along!
For frequent project updates and a behind the scenes look you can check out the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project’s blog at

For project highlights, content features, photographs, contests and more follow the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project’s Instagram account @AlaskaHistoricalNewspapers

To contact the Project Coordinator for more information email Leah Geibel at To contact the Project Director, email Anastasia Tarmann at

Logos of the AKDNP project, Alaska State Libraries, Library of Congress, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Thanks to Leah for contributing this guest post! Leah has been with the Library since February and is busy bringing historic Alaskan newspapers to you! As someone who spends a lot of time looking through Alaska newspaper microfilm, I'm thrilled that this project will make research easier. -Claire

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