Communities across the country are ramping up their newspaper archive digitization projects as they see increased interest in the history contained within the pages. Writers, researchers, genealogists and educators are among those crying out for convenient online access to the rich history of America’s small towns and the way its people and events were covered by the local newspaper.
SmallTownPapers was founded after its president saw firsthand the inaccessibility of small market newspaper archives. He was stunned that so many newspaper publishers never had the resources to microfilm or digitize the newspapers leaving them with an archive of a single printed issue of each paper often placed in bound volumes stored at the newspaper office.
Having only a printed archive means that the newspaper staff has a hard time retrieving information from old issues and the front office, which routinely receives requests for information (especially with the tremendous growth in genealogy research), will have to spend time retrieving past issues or the correct bound volume for the customer. These archives are difficult to search, are increasingly fragile, and are vulnerable to events like a building fire, flood, or in the case of an Oklahoma newspaper recently, a roof collapse. The history in the pages is literally at risk every day.
SmallTownPapers began with the Quad City Herald (formerly Brewster Herald) in Washington state. Our company founder was working there when he caught a glimpse of the newspaper’s bound volume archives dating back to the early 1900s. It was this rural newspaper that inspired him to create an affordable yet quality way to preserve historic archives. It would have to include safe shipping since often there was only a single copy of the newspaper remaining, the pages would have to be scanned intact and appear just as the paper was printed, and it would need to provide an option for easy online hosting. Publishers Ike and Doris Vallance loved the idea of making the history-rich archives accessible for their community and became the first to sign on to the idea in 1999. The company designed specifically to help small town publishers was born.
Since that time, hundreds of newspapers and millions of archive pages have been scanned and placed online by SmallTownPapers and the program continues to grow. In addition to working with publishers, we’re now proud to also work with historical societies, universities, libraries, alumni organizations and others who have print archives. In addition to newspapers, we have scanned yearbooks and organization newsletters, university newspapers, and in northern California, we’re scanning a community’s historic water maps.
Wondering what you’ll find in small town newspaper archives beyond coverage of town celebrations, marriages, obituaries, coverage of high school sports and city council meetings? It was a small town in Iowa that is home to the Surf Ballroom – the venue where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper had performed before their doomed flight in 1959. One of our newspapers covered the early days of the town which is now home to tech giant Microsoft while another gives you a look at what island life was like on Martha’s Vineyard in 1846. These archive pages truly document the story of America like no other.
Contact SmallTownPapers to learn more. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our Washington state office at 360.427.6300 and find out how to get started with your archive digitization project.