Coming Soon: More 19th and Early 20th Century NC Newspapers Online

Big news from Washington, D.C. And it doesn’t involve tax cuts, jobless numbers or the Presidential campaign. We recently received word from the National Endowment for the Humanities that we’ll receive $303,192 over the next two years to make available online North Carolina newspapers dating from 1836-1922. We’ll be joining the National Digital Newspaper Program, which is a partnership between NEH and the Library of Congress to provide access to historically significant newspaper titles from states around the nation. The newspapers are available through a Library of Congress website, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

Although Wilson Library in Chapel Hill will serve as the project’s base, this is a joint effort with the Office of Archives and History in Raleigh. We’ll be digitizing from copies of microfilm master negatives created by Archives and History over the past 50 years. In 1959 the Office of Archives and History (at the time actually known as a Division rather than an Office) had the great foresight to begin microfilming hundreds of North Carolina newspaper titles. In some cases, those microfilms are the only remaining evidence of 18th and 19th century newspapers. We will also benefit from the cataloging and additional microfilming performed by the State Archives and State Library in the 1990s as part of the United States Newspaper Project.

The newspapers we make available online through Chronicling America will augment those already available online through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, a Wilson Library-based initiative to digitize and publish online historic materials from cultural heritage institutions around the state, as well as the early colonial and 19th century newspapers available through the online digital collection of the State Archives. Rest assured that we’ll be planning ways for you to view all North Carolina newspapers at one online location. Please give us some time to work out the details.

Mind you, the NEH grant will allow us to make available online only a small portion of the more than 1,185 N.C. newspaper titles that the State Archives has microfilmed in its collections. Our advisory board will make some tough choices when it meets this fall to select the titles we plan to include. We’re hoping that this grant is merely the beginning of a sustained effort to publish historic NC newspapers online. Please note, that’s our hope. But we can’t promise such.

We’ll be kicking the project into full gear in the next month or so. We’ll keep you posted on our progress and let you know when North Carolina newspapers titles are available on Chronicling America.

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