What do you get when you combine proven success with newspaper digitization projects, passionate staff dedicated to the most challenging of grant-writing processes, and a strong commitment among partners to preserve the history of an entire state? In the case of UNLV Libraries, it’s the largest award the organization has ever received: a $311,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant.
As part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a collaboration between the NEH and the Library of Congress to preserve historic United States newspapers and share them via the Chronicling America website (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/), UNLV Libraries will lead a team including the Nevada State Library and Archives as well as the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center to digitize Nevada newspapers. Over a two-year period, 100,000 pages of information previously stored on microfilm or found only on old paper copies of Nevada newspapers will be reclaimed and made accessible to researchers around the world. Nevada is joining 37 other U.S. states and territories currently engaged in this landmark endeavor.
“This NEH grant recognizes the success UNLV Libraries achieved in our collaborative efforts, our ability to build trust among partners, and the reputation we have built as a leader,” said Cory Lampert, head of UNLV Libraries’ Digital Collections. The grant stands as a testament to the efforts of Lampert, Jason Vaughan (director of Library Technologies) and Peter Michel (head of exhibits for UNLV Libraries), who co-wrote the 70-plus-page grant, which has the potential to be renewed in the future.
A 15-member advisory board composed of teachers, oral historians, archaeologists, and other professionals with extensive knowledge of the state’s history and considerable experience using historic newspapers for research will review and prioritize Nevada newspapers produced between 1836 and 1922 and provide a ranked list of materials to be digitized. This is no easy feat, as a variety of perspectives must be represented. “Nevada is different from many other states in the program because of the mining boom and bust, where several short-run papers came in and out of business quickly, mirroring the boom and busts of the towns themselves,” Vaughan said. “It will be an interesting challenge for the advisory board to address.”
The deliverables will be well worth the hard work put forth by all involved. The information once confined inside these early newspapers will soon be accessible worldwide. Lampert noted that digitized newspapers from other states involved in the Chronicling America project are used in schools, scholarly books, and the production of documentaries. “People are creating amazing things with this information that’s now available to all,” Lampert said. “That’s when it really hit me how exciting it will be, having Nevada’s history represented alongside these other states’ histories.”