UNT helps papers preserve history
By Basil Gist
The UNT Digital Newspaper Program is preserving rural history one local paper at a time.
Program Director Ana Krahmer and National Endowment for the Humanities representative Tim Gieringer visited the Post-Signal on June 9 to start the process of adding more of the paper’s nearly 145 years of coverage to the archive.
“We’ve worked with communities across Texas of any size,” Krahmer said. “Usually the public libraries apply for grant funding to pay our group to digitize the newspaper. We are able to preserve and represent those histories to the world for free access in ways that have never been possible before.”
Alongside public libraries and still existing newspapers, the program also accepts copies found in attics or once used as insulation in older homes.
Post-Signal Editor Abigail Allen has had cause to use the resource even with the archives the paper has present access to.
The digitization project helped her verify the date of an elderly couple’s wedding anniversary for a piece she wrote about the husband’s 100th birthday.
“I was trying to make sure I had the date correct on their wedding,” Allen said. “And through the digitization project you all have done, I was able to go back and see an article we didn’t have [in our archives].”
The process is extensive and receives funding from several governmental and private sources. They work with both the Texas State Library Archives Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as the Tocker Foundation.
“We work with a group called the Tocker Foundation, who funds the digitization of papers for towns under 12,000,”
Krahmer said before recounting the words of the foundation’s founder. “You can always find these big city dailies, but we want worldwide access to these people’s lives and these towns across time.”
This desire stretches beyond papers for the program. It extends to personal histories through the Rescuing Texas History program.
“It’s a way for people to apply for $1,000 worth of digitizing historical cultural heritage items,” Krahmer said. “They can bring in photos, diaries, letters; we’ve had people bring in love letters that their great-great-grandparents exchanged during the Civil War. It’s really cool to see that.”
Applications for the program this year are due at the end of July; more information is available at texashistory.unt.edu.
“We get a lot of positive feedback,” Gieringer said. “People are always saying that they really appreciate it and are excited to see what they can find online now.”
At present, the Post-Signal sees community members pop into the office to sift through its records.
With digitization, Allen said, the process will be easier than sifting through the large bound books the Post-Signal keeps at present.
“This helps continue to tell those stories that may otherwise be lost,” Allen said. “There is staying power in being part of a community’s story—… proof you were there.”
Krahmer, a librarian by trade, expressed hope for the project to reignite some lost journalism in addition to preserving history.
“If we can at least digitally preserve it, maybe someday someone will read over that newspaper and decide to reopen [a closed paper]; though maybe that’s a little too idealistic,” Krahmer said. “Publishing is a labor of love; you’re creating that firsthand account of people’s lives.”