Magazine article Information Today

Bell & Howell Announces Pro Quest Historical Newspapers Project

Magazine article Information Today

Bell & Howell Announces Pro Quest Historical Newspapers Project

Article excerpt

Bell & Howell Information and Learning has announced the launch of its new historical newspaper digitization project and the signing of an agreement with The New York Times Co. to offer The New York Times as its first available backfile. The ProQuest Historical Newspapers project will digitize newspapers dating from the 19th century to the present and will digitally reproduce every issue from cover to cover--not just the news stories and editorials, but also the photos, graphics, and advertisements. The agreement with The New York Times will bring the newspaper's backfile--dating back to its first issue in 1851--to the Web via the ProQuest online information service, which is available by subscription to educational institutions and libraries.

"ProQuest Historical Newspapers is the first initiative to not only reach back into the past to digitize historical newspaper information, but also to provide that information in full-page-image format, so users can view the information in context as originally published," said Joe Reynolds, president and CEO of Bell & Howell Information and Learning. "It is part of our ongoing effort to provide complete, comprehensive access to information."

Commenting on the significance of the agreement with The New York Times, Reynolds said: "We are deeply honored and enthusiastic to proceed with digitization and electronic distribution of, essentially, the nation's history in journalism. We know that the educational and library markets are excited at the prospect of being able to access what has only been available on microfilm--this information and historical treasure wrapped up in The New York Times. We will continue to bring to market archival products in all formats for scholars, researchers, faculty, and students around the world. We will now be able to offer a complete New York Times in microfilm and online electronic formats."

Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New York Times Digital, the Internet division of the Times Co., said: "This digitization project promises to increase the availability and accessibility of The New York Times archive to scholars and researchers of all types. In addition, we look forward to enhancing our Web sites by utilizing various elements of the digital archive in a number of different ways."

The New York Times database will cover the years 1851 to 1998--a span not covered by any existing electronic database. Currently, the longest run of The New York Times is offered as searchable full text on LEXIS-NEXIS, which includes material from June 1980 to the present. Dialog and Dow Jones each provide full-text, searchable 90-day rolling files, though their customers outside of the U.S. can access the archive back to 1980.

The electronic file will be released on ProQuest in segments covering 10 years each. The digitization is expected to be completed in just 15 months, with monthly releases beginning in March. According to Carolyn Dyer, senior vice president and general manager of the UMI Division of Bell & Howell Information and Learning, users will be able to search by a number of elements, including display and classified ads, obituaries, stock quotes, editorials, front-page placement, headlines and subheads, and photo captions, as well as the standard keywords (author's name, dates, article type, etc.). While Bell & Howell is highlighting the historical benefits of full-page images, searchers will more likely applaud the many additional years of searchable text, especially with the added content availability and access points. …

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