Scrolling through newspaper microfilm last year with little sense of how long the search would take, Noreen Cullen remembered mumbling in frustration and “probably saying some bad words along the way.” “I thought to myself, ‘This is 2018. Why am I still using microfilm?’” the Manchester native and genealogist said.
To make life easier on herself and all the other people who want to mine their hometown history, Cullen started researching the digitization of two defunct local newspapers: the Manchester Evening Herald and the South Manchester News.
The conversion of 431 rolls of microfilm — every page of each paper — into online, searchable formats is underway and should be done early in the new year. The project of the Manchester Historical Society, which has raised $12,800 of the estimated total cost of up to $15,000, reflects state and nationwide efforts to preserve old newspapers and make them available to anyone with a computer.
Nationwide, newspaper digitization is ongoing. A partnership of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress is focused on “historically significant newspapers” published from 1690 to 1963 from all states and U.S. territories. The project’s searchable site — Chronicling America, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov — now holds 15,879,391 digitized pages, and Library of Congress staff continually add more, Henry Carter of the library’s serials and government publications division said.
The Connecticut State Library contributes to the national effort through the Connecticut Digital Newspaper Project: ctdigitalnewspaperproject.org. Every two years, the state library gets a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities that pays for digitization of 100,000 pages of Connecticut newspapers. Those pages are added to the Chronicling America site.