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University Libraries receive NEH grant to digitize historic Maryland newspapers

 

The University of Maryland Libraries today received a grant of $264,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize historic Maryland newspapers.

The grant is the fourth awarded to the university under the National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress to create a searchable database of U.S. newspapers. As a result of three previous grants, the University Libraries have digitized more than 300,000 pages of Maryland newspapers dating from the 1840s through the 1940s.

Curators have identified newspapers of historical value not available online. Of particular note is Maryland Suffrage News, a newspaper written and edited by women which emerged in the early 1900s as the leading mouthpiece of pro-suffrage forces in the state. The National Woman’s Party, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a partner in the project and is making a complete run of the paper available for digitization.

“Our goal is to digitize newspapers from underrepresented communities and add to the robust national database already in place,” says Rebecca Wack, digital projects librarian at the University Libraries. “The suffrage newspaper does just that and is especially timely as we lead to the anniversary of women getting the vote.”  The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote in 1920.

The two-year project also includes plans to digitize four foreign-language newspapers:   

  • Telegraf (1917-1951) – a weekly Bohemian journal devoted to educational and political interests of residents of Baltimore’s Little Bohemia.
  • Il Resorgimento Italiano nel Maryland (1922-1930) – a Baltimore newspaper that supported the vibrant community centered in the city’s Little Italy section at a time when the federal government was creating restrictive immigration policies
  • Katholische Volkszeitung (1874-1888) – a German Catholic newspaper for immigrants attracted to Baltimore, home to the oldest Catholic Archdiocese in the U.S.
  • Baltimore Wecker (1856-1867) – the only newspaper in Baltimore that supported the Republican Party during the Civil War Years. As such, the office of this German daily was attacked and destroyed by mobs in April 1861, and resumed publication after Union military forces reestablished order later that year.

The project builds on the ongoing efforts of the University Libraries to digitize and make available unique or rare collections. Since 2012, when the University Libraries centralized its digitization efforts, librarians have digitized more than 1.2 million images and text pages and 7,400 audiovisual hours.  Much of the actual digitization is now contracted to external vendors who can accommodate the volume, thus allowing librarians to manage these projects, perform quality control, create metadata, and to quickly fulfill researchers’ requests for individual items.

The library's Digital Conversion and Media Reformatting Department oversees the creation of digital versions of formats that include books, microforms, letters and correspondence, newspapers, photographs and increasing number of films, videotapes, and audio recordings – including reel-to-reel tape, digital audiotape, CDs.