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UNC project helps save, digitize NC's historic newspapers

Posted June 26, 2015

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— Historians often say newspapers are the first draft of history.

An ongoing project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is designed to make sure the history in the state's newspapers is preserved for future generations.

UNC has been scanning papers for years and sharing digital copies with the world, and the program is now adding another 28 titles – about 100,000 additional pages – of North Carolina's stories since the 1800s.

"Sometimes it's hard to go as quickly as you should because the materials are so interesting," UNC graduate student Katie McNeirney said of the process. Those who handle the process scan each fragile page, making a digital copy.

McNeirney and others at UNC are in a race against time to make sure that papers such as the 150-year-old Journal of Freedom aren't lost.

"Newsprint is brittle, and the older it is, the more brittle it is," John Blythe, with UNC Libraries, said.

Some of the papers UNC is working to catalog are community and special-interest papers that could give readers a unique insight into history.

"We have papers that represent various ethnic groups, communities, time periods," Blythe said. "They are a boon to historians, to geneaologists, (and) just people looking for an interesting read."

Once papers are scanned and cataloged, readers can search them for words or even names of ancestors. Many are available to read online at DigitalNC.org or through the Library of Congress.


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