Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Danville, Ky., newspaper converts archives into digital files

Old newspaper stories used to disappear into the archives perhaps never to return. However, The Advocate-Messenger of Danville, Ky., donated its old contents—from as far back as 1871—to the Boyle County Public Library. Assistant research librarian Mary Girard is converting them into digital files, Todd Kleffman writes for The Advocate-Messenger.

Mary Girard and her mother, Annabel Girard, look through the archives.
"We are very happy to have the library take on a project like this,"said John Nelson, the Advocate's executive editor. "These were records the public didn't really have access to." He said their more recent records are already electronic, and it will be useful for the public to have digital access to the older files.

Changing brittle newspaper pages into digital files is "tedious and detail-oriented," Girard said. But as a self-described "history geek," she said she enjoys the work. "Things discovered in Danville's past can shed new light on the present," she said.

One specific article that caught her eye was a piece from 1905 about Danville merchants concerned about losing customers to out-of-town competition. "Back in 1905, they were talking about shopping local. We are having that same conversation today," Girard said. "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

The project will likely take two years to complete. Girard posts some of what she finds in a Facebook group called "You might be from Boyle County if..." People who are part of the group enjoy looking at what she has posted and often help her identify individuals in some of the old photos.

"One of the early beneficiaries of the on-going digitalization of the old Advocate clips has been Michael Hughes, president of the recently formed Boyle County African American Historical Society," Kleffman writes. He was researching history of Danville's black community, so he visited the Advocate, and when he saw the archives, he knew it would take a long time to look through them. Browsing the digital files is much easier. "It's been a great help," he said. "It's just a treasure chest of information that the younger generation didn't know anything about and the older people had mostly forgotten about." (Read more)

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