For nearly sixty years, every Runnin’ Rebel has had the privilege of reading UNLV’s award-winning student newspaper, The Rebel Yell. Student writers may or may not have realized that their articles, while written to serve immediate information needs, would also become a rich historical record. With a grant from the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) and financial support from Consolidated Students of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (CSUN) and the UNLV Graduate & Professional Student Association (GPSA), these archives are being preserved for posterity by UNLV Libraries.
As part of a series of digital collections that document the history of Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, the UNLV Libraries has now turned its expertise to preserving our campus history. The Rebel Yell is now being archived on the web, making it more accessible and searchable than ever before.
In 2006, The Rebel Yell received the honor of being named the Best Non-Daily Student Newspaper for 2005 by the Society of Professional Journalists. However, it got its start in 1955 in UNLV’s remote past, shortly after the Board of Regents established Nevada Southern, a satellite campus of the University of Nevada – Reno. The paper’s first name was “Nevso News.” Shortly after Nevada Southern became independent from UNR, it established its new name, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and students affirmed the idea of rebellion against northern dominance by creating the Rebel mascot and publishing their paper under a new, more appropriate title, “The Rebel Yell.”
The Rebel Yell is a rich primary source, documenting the history of student life, the rapid growth of our university, and the enduring legacy of UNLV students’ shared experiences. Campus developments and the reactions of students are recorded: the December 7, 1959 issue breathlessly reports on the progress of the library, which had grown to 12,000 volumes and had just acquired its first microfilm reader, affording scholars access to the historical New York Times. October 1968 brings the discovery of new isotopes by faculty in the physics department. Readers of the February 1980 issue will find a spirited debate among student letter writers considering the possibility of a reinstatement of the military draft. The evolving attitudes and culture of the student body can be recovered and analyzed, giving expression to larger historical moments occurring within the greater community and nation.
The Rebel Yell’s purpose as a record of the life and times of the student body also appeals to researchers studying the social history of college students, their political attitudes and behaviors, their youth culture and generational perspectives on themselves, UNLV, Las Vegas and the greater world.
Libraries Special Collections faculty member, Peter Michel, has already collected interesting tales for how the physical The Rebel Yell archive has been accessed by researchers. He shared,
“When The Rebel Yell published a recent issue on Jerry Tarkanian’s induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame, they used archival issues of their own newspaper for background information. Current officers of CSUN have been fascinated by past stories of contested CSUN elections, which seem to have been endemic."
A student has also used The Rebel Yell for a research project on past student protests of the Civil Rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s and 1970s, which express the volatility of political action on the UNLV campus that reflect the widespread nationwide campus protests. Of course, average readers take interest in the archive for its documentation of cultural milieus: popular music, film, and local concert reviews, style and fashion are popular interests.
Digitization of campus newspapers, a growing trend, has proven popular among students and alumni. Aside from its popularity, there are also practical reasons for devising this project. Most of Nevada’s newspaper archives are accessible only through physical means, preserved in their degradable original print form or on outmoded microfilm. There is an urgency to save print archives from decay by transferring Nevada’s historic newspapers to digital form.
The size of these archives poses some obvious management and technical issues for the Libraries. Head of Digital Collections, Cory Lampert, and her team have been exploring the use of commercial digitization services and assistance from national granting agencies for such high-volume digitization. The largest digitization endeavor yet, The Rebel Yell project has served as an experiment of sorts. It has allowed our campus newspaper to become more accessible, and has also created an opportunity for the libraries to further develop capacity and technical knowledge to undertake the digitization of other historic Las Vegas, Clark County and Nevada newspapers. Documented experience with The Rebel Yell has helped UNLV staff submit a strong grant application for the 2013-2015 Library of Congress National Digital Newspaper Program.
Issues from 1956-2010 will be available for all to read. This totals approximately 30,000 pages. The digitization project is expected to be completed this summer, and issues will be easily accessed online through the UNLV Libraries website.
For more information:
Peter Michel, “A Proposal to Digitize UNLV’s Student Newspaper: The Rebel Yell," 2011.
Eugene P. Moehring, The University of Nevada, Las Vegas: A History, 2007.
“UNLV History,” http://celebrating50.unlv.edu/UNLVHistory.html.
2010-current issues of The Rebel Yell can be found online at http://www.unlvrebelyell.com/archive/.