Historic newspapers going digital

Efforts to place Routt County media sources online underway

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— A woman will call the newspaper wanting information on a relative living in Routt County in the early 1920s.

She tells the newspaper that she would be happy to look through microfiche at the Bud Werner Memorial Library or the Steamboat Pilot & Today archives herself, but she lives in California.

Spearheaded by Bud Werner Memorial Library reference librarian Alysa Selby, the library and the Pilot have started offering a way to help.

Historic copies of newspapers, including the first edition of the Steamboat Pilot are, or will soon be, offered free of charge at www.coloradohistoricnewspapers.org.

Right now, the Web site features Steamboat Pilot newspapers from 1897 to 1910 with more to appear.

"We get those phone calls all the time to do genealogy research from people who are more than happy to do it, but they, themselves, aren't in Steamboat," said Bryna Larsen, publisher of the Steamboat Pilot & Today. "This is a way to make newspaper back copies searchable and accessible from all over the world."

The Routt County Historic Newspaper project began in May when Jim and Nancy Crawford stumbled upon a box of historic newspapers in a relative's home. Among the stock of newspapers was the first edition of The Pilot, as it was originally called, and 11 other editions that were thought to be lost forever in a 1909 fire.

Jim Crawford asked the library to help support his efforts to add the newspapers to the Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection, which is a statewide effort to digitize all of Colorado's historic newspapers through 1923.

Newspapers published after 1923 are prohibited from being published in their entirety on the Web because of federal copyright laws.

"Never before has it been so easy to discover what life was like in Routt County," Selby said. "It's a boon for our community. Kids who won't pick up a newspaper or look at microfilm can get online and do research. It brings the history of our county to those who only know computers."

The Crawfords gifted $5,000 to begin the digitization process of the Steamboat Pilot, and they have pledged an additional $10,000 if the library can raise an equivalent amount from private donations.

The library has received grants from the Simons family, owners of the Steamboat Pilot, to finish digitizing their newspaper. Larsen thanked the Simons for their generous gift of $8,000 for the project.

"It's very exciting," Larsen said. "It will move historical gathering data into the next century."

The Routt County Museum and Heritage Fund, sponsored by the Tread of Pioneers Museum, will help digitize the Routt County Sentinel, and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation has offered to help digitize the Routt County Republican, Hayden's historic newspaper.

Selby said she is still seeking grants or donations to help digitize the Oak Creek Times and the Yampa Leader.

"It not only indexes the articles, it indexes the advertisements without searching page by page through microfilm," Selby said.

The entire digitization process takes place in Israel at $1.25 per page. First, the historic newspapers are put on a microfilm reel, which is duplicated and shipped to Israel. There, they enhance the digital image as best they can and index every word of every page of every newspaper.

The process will enable people to search for articles by using a single word.

An estimated $15,400 is needed to finish the project, and the library is hoping to have all five of Routt County's historic newspapers online by 2008. Interested donors can contact Selby at 879-0240, ext. 305, or at aselby@marmot.org.

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