Preserving Barometers of History for 20 Years, the NEH Has Teamed Up with Historical Societies and Universities to Prevent the Disintegration of US Newspapers

By Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 2, 1992 | Go to article overview

Preserving Barometers of History for 20 Years, the NEH Has Teamed Up with Historical Societies and Universities to Prevent the Disintegration of US Newspapers


Scott Pendleton, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


`EXTRA! Extra! Read all about it!" cry the boys hawking banner-headlined newspapers in the gangster movies of the 1930s. Tempted passersby would part with a nickle to catch up on the D.A.'s investigation into corruption at city hall.

Back issues from that era can still fascinate, but their readers are likely to be genealogists skimming the obituary page or historians noting the context in which women and minorities are mentioned.

"The history of the country is really contained foremost in its newspapers," says Jerry Martin, the assistant chairman for programs and policy at the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

"If you think of the original reports of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, or job lists that appeared in newspapers in the Great Depression - that's really the record of the life of the people," he says. Newspapers on microfilm

Thanks in part to the NEH, millions of pages of yellowed newsprint are being microfilmed before they crumble from the acid in their wood-pulp paper. The NEH is a 27-year-old independent federal agency whose mission includes historical preservation.

"Newsprint is so fragile that if it's not preserved, it's lost forever," Mr. Martin says. That makes the job not only important, he adds, but urgent.

Most major newspapers have long been microfilmed. For example, all issues of this newspaper since its founding in 1908 are available on microfilm, says the Monitor's head librarian, Polly McGee.

Also on film are journals whose rarity and historical significance are already recognized, such as "Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick," the first newspaper in the Americas, which Colonial authorities in Boston shut down after just one issue.

But thousands of others - county newspapers of record, military-base gazettes, or ethnic journals from the last century - have never been preserved for lack of money and are disintegrating into obscurity.

That danger prompted the NEH to launch the United States Newspaper Program (USNP) to catalog and preserve these irreplaceable historical records. Now halfway through its 20-year life, the USNP has reached 43 states and two US territories at a cost of $22 million.

Universities or historical societies apply to carry out the program within their own states. NEH grants pay a third of the cost, and the organization's funds and private donations cover the remainder.

Projects under the USNP have cataloged more than 200,000 newspaper titles. (All the issues of the Monitor represent one title.) Even the Virgin Islands had 57 newspapers at one time or another.

The job is complete in many states and under way in others. No organizations in Tennessee, Oregon, Vermont, or Washington, D.C. have applied for the grants yet.

Once the entire country has been covered, the number of titles cataloged is expected to reach 250,000. Thousands turned up so far were previously unknown to historians.

The newspaper titles are entered into an international database accessed through the Online Computer Library Center network found at large public and college libraries. The microfilmed copies are available by interlibrary loan.

For organizations carrying out the US Newspaper Program, the first step is to identify repositories of newspapers in their state. Second is to visit them to catalog their collections. Third is to microfilm the most important titles, including newspapers for which earlier microfilm is of poor quality.

Libraries, historical societies, and publishers' offices are the logical starting point in the hunt for old newspapers. Researchers also publicize the program so that private individuals will volunteer collections stored in their basements, garages, and barns.

In central Pennsylvania, individual collections held 40 percent of the newspaper titles found by researchers, says Jeffery Field, administrator of the program for the NEH. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Preserving Barometers of History for 20 Years, the NEH Has Teamed Up with Historical Societies and Universities to Prevent the Disintegration of US Newspapers
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.