Illinois Newspaper Project Receives NEH National Digital Newspaper Program Grant

The Illinois Newspaper Project (INP), a joint initiative of the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library and Preservation Services, has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to continue digitizing historical Illinois newspapers. The INP began digitizing newspapers in 2009 as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a partnership between NEH and Library of Congress (LC). Previous grants have funded the digitization of 400,000 pages of newspapers with historical relevance to the state, which can be viewed on the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections (IDNC) website alongside work done through other grants as well as generous patron donations. They can also be cross-searched with other U.S. newspapers through the Library of Congress Chronicling America website. The INP will digitize 100,000 pages during the two-year grant cycle that relate to the theme of “communities and causes” in an effort to highlight underserved communities and shed light on the many unique communities that are a part of our state’s history.

University librarians, academic professionals, and graduate assistants involved with this project include:

  • Kyle Rimkus, Preservation librarian, and Celestina Savonius-Wroth, Head of the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library, who serve as the Principal Investigators.
  • Will Schlaack, Digital Reformatting Coordinator, who is the Project Director.
  • Courtney Becks, African American Studies librarian.
  • Geoffrey Ross, Collections and Services Specialist in the History, Philosophy, and Newspaper Library.
  • Itzel Jihan, NDNP Graduate Assistant
  • Megan Pearson, NDNP Graduate Assistant

According to Project Director Will Schlaack, the NDNP provides the University Library with “both funds from NEH and digitization standards from the Library of Congress that enable us to digitize newspapers that we otherwise would not be able to provide online for researchers. Digitized newspapers provide transformative access to our nation’s historical record by allowing researchers full-text keyword access to content wherever they may be, thus circumventing common issues with traditional newspaper research such as scrolling through dozens of reels of microfilm, limiting access based on availability of microfilm readers, or simply waiting for films to come through interlibrary loan, just to name a few.”

The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) is a long-term effort to provide permanent access to a national digital resource of newspaper bibliographic information and historic newspapers, selected and digitized by NEH-funded institutions (awardees) from all U.S. states and territories. The program builds on the legacy of the strategically successful United States Newspaper Program (USNP, 1982-2011), a project sponsored by the NEH with technical support from LC which organized the inventory, cataloging, and selective preservation on microfilm of a corpus of at-risk newspaper materials. The NDNP extends the usefulness of the USNP bibliographic and microfilm assets by increasing access to this valuable information and provides an opportunity for institutions to select and contribute digitized newspaper content, to a freely accessible, national newspaper resource. Since 2005, the NEH has awarded grants to state libraries, historical societies, and universities representing states in the national program, with many more states and territories to be included in the coming years. The digitized pages are made available through the Chronicling America website.

Portions of this post have been adapted from the National Digital Newspaper Program website.

The Illinois Newspaper Project has been made possible in part by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities: The National Digital Newspaper Program.

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