Penn State Libraries awarded major newspaper digitization grant

August 29, 2008

University Park, Pa. — Penn State's University Libraries have been awarded a $393,650 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historical Pennsylvania newspapers on microfilm, under the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). The two-year grant will cover the digitization of 100,000 pages of Pennsylvania newspapers published between 1880 and 1922, which will be entered into the Library of Congress's historical newspaper database, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers ( The database is accessible to all, and readers can search content and read, download, save and print articles and advertisements from the available publications.

Librarian L. Suzanne Kellerman, the Judith O. Sieg Chair for Preservation, said digitizing selected newspapers that currently exist on microfilm will greatly widen access to these rich historical resources. "Providing good quality images from historically significant Pennsylvania titles along with keyword searching of the content will provide unknown research and scholarship opportunities to a publication type that has been under-utilized by researchers for years. Only within the last three to five years has technology allowed us to tap into published newspaper content.

"Providing access to the Commonwealth's rich newspaper heritage via the Chronicling America database will allow researchers, school students and everyone the opportunity to search newspaper content as never before," she added.

Kellerman says Penn State is working with the State Library of Pennsylvania and the Free Library of Philadelphia to identify titles in their collections for the project. The search began using U.S. census data to locate 12 cities in Pennsylvania with the largest populations from 1880-1922. They were Allegheny, Allentown, Altoona, Erie, Harrisburg, Johnstown, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reading, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre. From these cities, 48 publications were chosen for initial consideration, with the final selection to be made by an advisory board of researchers, scholars, librarians and historians.

"The selection will be based on intellectual content — research value, geographic representation and temporal coverage as evident by a long continuous run that includes the targeted time frame; and quality of microfilm. My prediction is that we digitize only three to eight titles from the group," said Kellerman.

Kellerman notes that this program will be considerably different from the many digitization projects her department has completed in the past, as it requires adhering to specific Library of Congress requirements and timelines. Staff from Penn State Libraries' Digitization and Preservation Department, Cataloging and Metadata Services, and Digital Library Technologies will be involved in the project.

The Penn State grant is one of only six awarded under the NDNP this year. The other recipients are the Arizona Department of Libraries, Archives and Public Records; the University of Hawaii, Manoa; the State Historical Society of Missouri; the Ohio Historical Society and the Washington State Library.

The NDNP is a long-term effort that aims to widen access to historical U.S. newspapers by providing content in digital format through the Library of Congress. Once completed, will contain historical newspaper resources from every U.S. state and territory. Currently, the database contains titles from eight states and Washington, D.C. For more information on the NDNP, go to

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Last Updated March 19, 2009